SPORTS >> Devils nail down 2 seed
Leader sports editor
The Jacksonville Red Devils went into Friday’s doubleheader with Marion needing just one win to clinch a No. 2 seed and a first-round bye at the state tournament this weekend.
Michael Harmon made certain to take all the drama out of it in the first game.
Harmon, still battling back from an early season hip injury, struck out 10 and walked only two as the Red Devils secured the bye with a 5-1 win over the Patriots at Dupree Park.
Jacksonville concluded the sweep with a 12-2 romp in the second game behind six RBI from Caleb Mitchell.
The Red Devils, who were rained out in a non-conference twin bill with Sylvan Hills last night, will open the state tournament next Saturday at Burns Park when they take on the winner of Little Rock Parkview and Lake Hamilton.
“I’ve seen Michael throw better, and I think he’s still feeling (out the injury) a little bit,” said Jacksonville head coach Larry Burrows, whose Red Devils improved to 19-7 overall and finished the 6A-East Conference with an 11-3 mark. “He says his hip doesn’t hurt anymore so we need to get him back in shape where he can go seven innings.”
Harmon went the distance on Friday, allowing just five hits and losing his shutout with one out in the final frame.
Terrell Brown provided the firepower in the first game, going 3 of 4 and Logan Perry delivered a big two-run single.
Jacksonville jumped on Marion early, plating three in the first inning. After Mitchell walked, Patrick Castleberry lined an 0-2 pitch to right and Nick Rodriguez was hit with a pitch to load the bases. Perry lined a two-run single down the line in right and
Tom Sanders’ groundout brought in another to make it 3-0.
Harmon struck out two batters in each of the first three innings, escaping atwo-on, no-out jam in the second when he picked a runner off second base. A two-out Jacksonville rally came up empty in the second after Brown singled and Mitchell walked.
Castleberry grounded out to short.
But with two outs in the fourth, the Red Devils broke through again. Jacob Abrahamson was plunked with a pitch and Brown beat out an infield single. Mitchell grounded a single back through the box to bring home Abrahamson and extend the lead to 4-0.
Doubles by Devon McClure and Brown made it 5-0 in the sixth.
The Red Devils made the most of a lot in the opener, picking up only seven hits. But their bats came to life in a big way in the mercy-rule rout in the nightcap. And none of those bats were stouter than Mitchell’s. The senior third baseman belted a home run and a double, drove in six runs and went 3 of 3. Brown added to his three-hit game in the opener with a single, a double and two RBI in the second game.
Castleberry added two hits and two RBI, while McClure and Tommy Sanders also picked up a pair of hits. Jacob Abrahamson was 1 of 1 and scored three times.
Seth Tomboli struck out eight and allowed four hits over five innings to pick up the win.
With the re-emergence of Harmon, Jacksonville now has a deep pitching staff with Tommy and Noah Sanders, Tomboli, Michael Lamb, Perry and Jesse Harbin.
“We feel pretty good about who we’re going to put out there (for the state tournament),” Burrows said. “It was also a big deal to get that bye.”