Leader Blues

Friday, July 03, 2009

SPORTS >> Chevy Boys’ power surge beats Benton

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville Gwatney Chevrolet finally solved the mystery of Benton knuckleballer Jayce Mitchell on Friday afternoon, and not a second too soon.

The soft-throwing reliever set down the first seven Chevy Boys he faced before Gwatney broke through for three runs in the seventh. That proved the difference in a 7-4 win for the Chevy Boys, who improved to 2-0 in pool play at the Gwatney Fourth of July Classic.

Patrick Castleberry and A.J. Allen kept up the Gwatney home run barrage. Each knocked one out on Friday. Castleberry belted a slam and Seth Tomboli added a long ball on Thursday night in a win over Little Rock Blue, bringing the team’s total to four through the first two games of the tourney.

Gwatney carried a 7-2 lead into the seventh but a sudden spate of wildness following a brilliant outing by starter and winner Clayton Fenton nearly cost them. Fenton had walked no one, but hit the first batter he faced in the seventh. Tommy Sanders walked both batters he faced in relief and Jared Toney came in and walked in a run. But with the tying run at the plate, Toney retired the next three batters. The final out of the game was recorded when first baseman Jason Regnas made a long stretch and a back-handed, short-hop scoop of shortstop Terrell Brown’s throw.

Benton grabbed the early lead with a pair of singles and a double steal in the first. But Gwatney erupted for three runs in the second. Tomboli reached on an error on the center fielder, Sanders singled and Allen followed with a three-run no-doubter blast over the scoreboard in left-center.

Castleberry led off the third with a home run to make it 4-1. That appeared to be more than enough for Fenton, whose curve ball had Benton batters lunging all afternoon. After allowing the two singles in the first, Fenton gave up only two more hits through the sixth. Benton closed the gap with an unearned run in the sixth.

But Mitchell’s knuckleball had completely stymied the Gwatney bats from the fourth inning on. Brown became the first base runner to reach base off Mitchell when he drew a leadoff walk in the seventh. Brown stole second and third and scored on Castleberry’s single. That gave Castleberry eight RBI in his past two games.

Toney lined a single to right, then moved to second on a wild pitch. Tomboli brought them both home with a single to left.

Fenton went six innings, allowing four hits and two earned runs. He fanned six and hit a batter.

Gwatney finished with eight hits, two each by Castleberry and Tyler Wisdom.

Gwatney finishes pool play today at 4:30, when it takes on Sylvan Hills Optimist Club.