Leader Blues

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

SPORTS>>Jacksonville rallies, then sweeps

Leader sports editor

On the calendar, it took nearly a month for Jacksonville to erase a 4-run deficit to West Memphis.

In actual game time, it was 2/3 of an inning and seven batters. The Red Devils rallied from a 6-2 hole to win a suspended game, 11-8, on Monday night at Dupree Park.

The Red Devils concluded the sweep with an 11-2 win in the second game to secure a No. 4 seed in this weekend’s 6A state tournament in Texarkana. Jacksonville (15-13 overall, 8-6 in the 6A-East) will take on Sheridan, the No. 5 seed from the South at 3 p.m. on Friday.

“Our No. 1 goal was to make the playoffs,” said Jacksonville head coach Larry Burrows. “Seeding is nice, but if you’re not No. 1 or 2, it doesn’t make any difference. What’s important is that we’re playing well.”

Michael Harmon picked up the win in the opener, throwing three innings and striking out six, while allowing three hits and two runs. The game, suspended by rain on April 8, picked up in the bottom of the fourth inning with the Red Devils having two on and no one out.

Terrell Brown was hit with a pitch to load the bases, and Cameron Hood hit a sacrifice fly to make it 6-3.

Patrick Castleberry and Caleb Mitchell then delivered two-out singles to tie the game at 6. Brown ripped an RBI double to the fence in left-center one inning later to give Jacksonville a 7-6 lead. West Memphis tied it in the sixth, but the Red Devils took advantage of three walks and a hit batsman in the sixth to score four runs. Castleberry had an RBI double and Mitchell a run-scoring single.

The Red Devils had ample opportunity to bust open the nightcap early, but couldn’t take full advantage of West Memphis’ generosity. Despite receiving four walks, two errors and a hit batsman, Jacksonville led only 3-0 after two innings. The big hit was Jason Regnas’ 2-run single in the second.

Seth Tomboli took the mound for Jacksonville and pitched hitless ball over three innings, though he walked two and hit another. Brown’s 3-run double in the third opened the lead to 6-0, and Hood made it 7-0 in the fourth after a double, an error and a wild pitch.

Burrows opted to give his other pitchers some work and lifted Tomboli after three innings in favor of Regnas. Regnas struggled with his control, and a pair of walks and a triple cut the lead to 7-2 in the fifth.

A heads-up play in the inning kept West Memphis from drawing closer. Caleb Mitchell threw out a runner at first, and Regnas, who had returned to first base in favor of reliever Noah Sanders, threw home to catch the West Memphis player in a rundown along the third-base line. Red Devil catcher Patrick Castleberry threw him out trying to retreat to third base.

It was a big play because the next two Blue Devils singled. Jacksonville got those runs back in the sixth, thanks largely to more West Memphis wildness. The Blue Devils issued two more of their 11 walks ahead of Tomboli’s 2-run double. Tomboli scored on a passed ball to make it 10-2.

“We expected a lot coming into this season, but at times, we were playing three freshmen,” Burrows said. “When [freshman] Logan Perry went down, we had to readjust some. Then we lost a pitcher.

“Now, you look back, and you’re glad maybe things weren’t clicking as good early. It made them a little tougher.”
As for Sheridan, Burrows is quite familiar with them, he said.

“We play them every summer, and Coach Mike Moore does a great job,” Burrows said. “They do it with pitching and defense and they scratch runs out. We’re going to have to execute.”