Leader Blues

Friday, July 03, 2009

SPORTS >> Castleberry slams Little Rock Blue

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

Gwatney Chevrolet didn’t have to hit too many balls hard to score their runs in an 11-3 win over Little Rock Blue on Thursday evening at Dupree Park.

And of those balls that were tagged, most of them came off the bat of catcher Patrick Castleberry. The Jacksonville High junior-to-be belted a grand slam and two doubles, scored three times and drove in six more in the opening round of pool play at the Gwatney Chevrolet Fourth of July Classic.

Ten walks and a hit batter and a two-run home run by Seth Tomboli provided most of the remainder of Gwatney’s offense and pitcher Michael Harmon did the rest. Harmon struggled at times with his control, walking four and hitting three, but allowed only two hits — back-to-back singles in the fifth.

Gwatney got the early lead when Terrell Brown walked leading off the game, stole second and eventually came home on Castleberry’s sacrifice fly. Tomboli, Daniel Thurman and Jason Regnas walked to begin the second inning before Tommy Sanders beat out a slow roller down the third base line to make it 2-0. Brown then lifted a shallow pop up behind short that was caught on the edge of the outfield grass. But the shortstop fell down on the play, allowing Thurman to race home from third.

The big blow of the game came two batters later after Devon McClure was hit with a pitch to load the bases once more. Castleberry lifted a 1-0 offering high into night sky. The towering shot came down well beyond the scoreboard in left center and the grand slam staked Gwatney to a7-0 lead.

Harmon set down the first six Blue batters he faced, recording four of his 10 strikeouts over that span. He ran into trouble of his own making in the third, hitting the first batter, and then making an errant throw on a bouncer hit back to the mound. A ground out made it 7-1.

Gwatney added a run in the fourth and Castleberry missed out on another RBI opportunity when Brown was picked off first.

Castleberry laced a double down the line in left, and then scored on a pair of wild pitches.

Harmon walked the first three Blue hitters in the fourth, but escaped damage with a pair of strikeouts — one on a 3-2 count — and a foul pop to first. None of the first 20 batters Harmon faced hit the ball out of the infield and only six put the ball in play.

But after a one-out walk in the fifth, Blue got solid consecutive singles to load the bases. Blue scored on a slow bouncer that Gwatney third baseman Jared Toney made a nifty play on when he charged, short-hopped the ball and threw across as the runner from third came in. A wild pitch made it 8-3.

In the top of the sixth, Gwatney got three more. Brown reached on an error and Castleberry doubled him home with a long drive to the fence in straightaway center field. With two outs, Tomboli made it 11-3 with a two-run line drive home run to left.

Harmon finished it off with a 1-2-3 sixth.

Gwatney finished with only seven hits — three by Castleberry and one each by Tomboli, Regnas, A.J. Allen and Sanders.

The tournament concludes pool play today before advancing to the semifinals and championship games on Sunday.