SPORTS>> Split Gwatney team reaches semifinals
Leader sports editor
It was not a happy ending to the tournament but it was a pretty good start to the season.
Jacksonville Gwatney’s junior Ameri-can Legion team went 3-0 in pool play over the weekend at the North Little Rock Memorial Day Tournament at Burns Park.
Unfortunately, things went south in the semifinals of bracket play and their tournament run ended with a 16-0 walloping at the hands of Heber Springs.
Gwatney split up to form a Red team and a Gray team for the tourney. Gray went 1-2.
“That really weakened both teams,” said Gwatney coach Bob Hickingbotham. “But we had 23 kids 17 and under and we wanted to let as many play as we could.
“I was pleased with both teams. But we ran out of pitching yesterday.”
Gwatney Red reached bracket play by beating Pine Bluff 6-1 on Sunday in a game pitting two 2-0 teams for the right to advance to the semifinals. Gwatney did almost all off its damage in the first inning against Pine Bluff, taking advantage of four errors to score five runs.
Gwatney collected only two hits in the inning, the big one being Patrick Castleberry’s 2-run single. Castleberry went 2 of 3 with three RBI.
Stephen Swaggerty pitched five strong innings for Gwatney, allowing just two hits and striking out six. That allowed him to overcome eight walks. Daniel Thurman closed it out in the sixth, allowing a hit and striking out one.
While Pine Bluff was kicking the ball all over the infield, Gwatney was mostlysolid defensively. They committed two errors, but made some good plays as well. Castleberry threw out a runner trying to steal third and third baseman Caleb Mitchell made nice catch of a foul pop right up against the dugout in the second inning.
Shortstop Terrell Brown caught a pop up in shallow left in the sixth inning with his back to the infield.
Gwatney picked up five hits. Marshall Shipley had a single and an RBI on a sacrifice fly.
Gwatney Red opened the tourney with a 9-1 cruise past Maumelle on Friday night. Swaggerty also got the win in that one, allowing one hit over three innings, while fanning three. Castleberry belted a home run and a single and drove in two. A.J. Allen had a triple and an RBI. Thurman and Jarod Toney each doubled.
The Red team followed that up with a 6-5 win over North Little Rock on Saturday. Castleberry doubled twice and scored twice while driving in a run. Thurman added a single and an RBI. Toney got the win, surrendering seven hits and striking out four over four innings. Thurman came in to shut down NLR in the sixth, striking out all three batters he faced.
Gwatney missed out on some early chances on Monday against Heber Springs, which piled on with three runs in the second, five in the third and four each in the fifth and sixth in its 16-0 win. Gwatney’s lone hit was A.J. Allen’s double leading off the third.
Gwatney put its first two batters on in both the second and third innings, but couldn’t advance them. They ran into bad luck in the third when Caleb Mitchell’s liner right to the third baseman was turned into a double play.
“Heber Springs had a lot of older kids,” Hickingbotham said. “They had a bunch of 18- and 19-year-olds and they were hitting the ball hard.
“But this is going to be a good group of kids when we get them all together.”
The Gray team suffered a dramatic loss but also enjoyed a dramatic win in going 1-2 in the tournament.
Gray opened with a 4-3 loss to Benton when its fifth-inning rally came up short after it scored three in the frame.
Tom Sanders, who pitched three innings of no-hit ball, had a single and an RBI. Alex Tucker, Hayden Simpson and Matt McAnally each singled and scored. Benton scored all its runs in the fourth.
McAnally was the hero in a 10-9 win over Texarkana ‘A’ on Saturday. After Zachary Roman had singled, McAnally delivered a walk-off double.
The Gray team fell to Lake Hamilton, 8-1, on Sunday.