Leader Blues

Friday, April 10, 2009

SPORTS >> Red Devils closer to clinching

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville came one step closer to wrapping up a first-round bye in the upcoming 6A state baseball tournament with 12-3, 12-2 wins over Little Rock Parkview at Hickingbotham Field in Dupree Park on Tuesday.

Unbeaten Searcy has all but secured the 6A-East Conference title with three games to go, which has left the Red Devils (14-5, 8-2 conf.) all alone in second place, two games ahead of Jonesboro and Mountain Home.

Tuesday’s twin routs began with a five-run spree for the Devils in the first inning of Game 1. Michael Harmon earned the win at the mound through six innings, while Michael Lamb closed the game out in the top of the seventh.

The Red Devils put up four hits in the bottom of the first while going through the lineup. They added four more runs in the third, and scattered three more in the fourth and fifth innings.

“That was good to see,” said Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows. “We had some good swings in that first inning. We still fell off a little bit, but what I’m expecting is that first inning. We haven’t done that in a while. We’re getting closer to everyone swinging the bats.”

A leadoff triple with a shot to left field by Terrell Brown got the ball rolling for Jacksonville in the bottom of the first, followed by a RBI double by Caleb Mitchell for the first run. Patrick Castleberry reached when he was hit by a pitch, and an error on a bunt by Nick Rodriguez loaded the bases for the Red Devils.

Logan Perry scored Mitchell and Castleberry on a fielder’s choice to shortstop to make it 3-0, and Perry came in on a single by Tommy Sanders. Seth Tomboli got the final hit of the frame when he doubled to left to bring in Sanders.

Harmon and the Jacksonville defense sent the Patriots three-up and three-down through the first three innings. Parkview did spark a small rally in the top of the fourth when it scored three runs off a walk, a double and an error, but Harmon retired eight of the final 10 batters he faced. He gave up a pair of walks to start the top of the sixth before forcing two groundouts and a pop-up. Lamb sandwiched a forced pop-up between a pair of Ks in the top of the seventh to end it.

Sanders was 2 of 2 with a RBI. Brown finished with a triple and two RBI, while Mitchell had a double and two RBI. Tomboli added a double and three RBI.

Parkview had only one hit in the game and Harmon walked four batters, with one defensive error for the Red Devils. The Patriots gave up eight hits and had five errors.

“Mentally, we weren’t there for a few innings,” said Burrows. “I expect us to be there mentally all the time, because it caused some situations, but we’ve got three weeks to be exactly where we want to be.”

Tomboli earned the win at the mound in the nightcap with an 11-strikeout, four-hit and five-walk performance through all seven innings for the right-handed senior. Castleberry led the sticks, going 2 of 4 with a home run and two RBI. Jessie Harbin was 2 of 3, while Mitchell and Perry each finished with a pair of RBI. Brown scored three runs.

Jacksonville will play a 6A-East doubleheader at Jonesboro on Tuesday before hosting a non-conference game with Cabot on Friday. The Red Devils will wrap up league play the following Friday when they host Marion for a doubleheader.