Leader Blues

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

SPORTS>> Red Devils cruise past Bombers

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

It’s hard to put an exclamation point on a 14-1 romp, but Jacksonville freshman Nick Rodriquez did just that on Saturday. Rodriguez, in only his third varsity at-bat, sent a Mountain Home pitch over the left field wall to bring in the final two scores of the second game of a 6A-East Conference doubleheader at Hickingbotham Field in Dupree Park.

The Red Devils dominated both games, taking 11-4 and 16-1 wins over the Bombers, who were their own worst enemies at the mound for most of the afternoon.

Jacksonville racked up seven runs during the second inning of Game 1, but didn’t take as long during the finale. The Devils went through their entire lineup in the top of the first inning of Game 2 all the way back to two-hole hitter Jason Regnas, picking up five runs on four hits.

Mountain Home helped them out with a pair of errors during the frame, and watched its pitchingtake a steady nosedive during the run-ruled contest.

“Since we’ve been in the conference, we’ve battled 100 times better,” Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows said. “We’ve had quality A-B after quality A-B. They’ve competed well with the stick. We’re really happy — not necessarily with the way we’re swinging, but just the quality at bats that we’re having.

“We’re making it tough on the opposing pitcher. No matter how good they are, we’re standing in there and competing. I don’t know how many 0-2 walks we’ve gotten. If we get in a hole, they just keep battling back and fighting.”

The Red Devils held a big advantage at the plate all day, and their defense and pitching were also on the mark. Seth Tomboli went six innings to claim the win in Game 1, while his reliever for the seventh inning, Regnas, threw the first three innings of Game 2 to earn the win. Junior Michael Harmon took to the mound to start the fourth inning in relief of Regnas, striking out four of the seven batters he faced.

The pair of wins didn’t exactly clinch Jacksonville (13-11, 6-4 East) for the upcoming state tournament, but did bring it a little closer to securing at least a six seed. The Red Devils are currently in fifth place, ahead of Forrest City, West Memphis and Mountain Home.

After hosting first-place Sylvan Hills on Wednesday, the Red Devils will close out their regular season with West Memphis.

“We still control our own destiny,” Burrows said. “If we win one more game, then it’s for sure clinched, or if West Memphis loses another.”

Harmon led off the fifth with a double to right field, but was stuck in the middle as Mountain Home retired the next two Devil batters. That put Rodriguez up to the plate, who sent it into the road behind the left field fence.

Rodriguez was greeted at the plate by teammates after he rounded the bases.

Regnas got the win, allowing one earned run on three hits, two walks and four strikeouts. He was also stout offensively in
Game 2, going 3 of 5 with a double and three RBI. Cameron Hood was 2 of 3 with a triple and a RBI. Patrick Castleberry led the Devils, going 4 of 4 with two doubles and three RBI.