By Rob Patrick
A pair of walk-off wins highlighted the first day at the 2013 Junior American Legion Regional baseball tournament at Bryant High School Field on Friday.
Despite some steady rain in the afternoon, there were no disruptions in play as the Little Rock Post 1 Vipers, Jacksonville Gwatney Chevrolet and Jonesboro Armor Seed earned victories.
In the first game of the day, Jacksonville knocked off Texarkana, Texas, 8-4. Jonesboro followed that up by rallying past Cabot Centennial Bank, 9-8. To wrap up the day, the Vipers came from behind to win 2-1 over Paducah, Ky.
The host Everett Black Sox of Bryant, champions of Arkansas, debut against Atlanta, Texas today at 9 a.m. (See the brackets elsewhere on this page.)
Little Rock 2, Paducah, Ky. 1
Behind a strong pitching performance by Austin Shaw, Paducah had a 1-0 lead through six innings. The lone run came in the first when Evan Lawrence singled in Ian Walters who had led off the game with a walk and moved around to third on a pair of wild pitches. Reid Pope followed with a double but, after that, Little Rock right-hander Dylan Hays shut the door, pitching shutout ball on two hits the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, Shaw had been perfect for the first eight batters then pitched around infield singles by Adam Wright and Joe Hampton in the third then by Jack Lee and Jacob White in the fourth.
In the bottom of the seventh, the first Paducah error proved costly as Ryan Panyard reached second. Jarod Collier beat out an infield hit then Colton Fisher hit a grounder to short. With Panyard breaking for the plate, Lawrence, the Paducah shortstop, threw to the plate in what appeared to be plenty of time. But his throw bounced in and catcher Jakob Worley was unable to hang onto the ball as Panyard scored the tying run.
With runners at second and third, an intentional walk was issued to Brock Ferguson to set up a force at any base. And it worked initially as Wright grounded to third. Jacob Calhoun threw home for the force.
But when Hampton hit a slow roller to the left side, the throw home was not in time as Fisher slid across the plate just ahead of the throw for the game-winner.
Jonesboro 9, Cabot 8
Cabot broke out to a 7-0 lead in the first two innings and Jonesboro whittled on the margin with four in the fourth and three in the seventh to tie it. In the top of the eighth, Cabot took the lead again when Dalton Hurst walked, Jess Reed sacrificed him to second, a wild pitch put him on third and, with two out, Chris Odom came through with the RBI single.
In the bottom of the inning, however, Reed Fishbacker singled for Jonesboro and Grant Moore walked. A sacrifice moved them to second and third. After a pitching change, Hunter single slapped a single to right to tie the game and Austin Bethune singled up the middle to win it.
Jordan Volner led Jonesboro with three hits. Tyler Cole, Behtune and Fishbacker each had two.
For Cabot, Dylan Bowers had two hits and Gavin Tillery drove in two runs with a base hit in the first inning. Odom singled in a run and Trent Frizzel picked up an RBI walk to make it 4-0.
In the second, Adam Hicks had a sacrifice fly and Bowers singled in a run as Cabot added three more.
But over the next five innings, Cabot was shutout on two hits by Jonesboro starter Devin Austin and Trey Hall, who took over in the sixth.
Jonesboro picked up four in the fourth. Nash Thomas singled in a run, Luke Sexton picked up an RBI with a sac fly and Fishbacker singled in a run with a fourth scoring on an errant throw from the outfield.
The tying rally in the seventh was ignited by a Cabot error. Volner doubled in a run, Kollin Stone delivered a sacrifice fly and Blake Holley drove in a run with an infield hit.
Jacksonville 8, Texarkana, Texas 4
The game was tied 4-4 after two frames but Jacksonville’s Derek St. Clair shut out the Tigers after that. He wound up with nine strikeouts.
St. Clair also contributed three hits. Blake Perry added three with Ryan Mallison, Courtland McDonald and James Tucker pitching in with two hits apiece.
For Texarkana, the big blow was Eron Sonson’s three-run double to key the second when the Tigers took advantage of some wildness by St. Clair who had hit a batter and walked three ahead of the Sonson’s blow.
McDonald had tripled home two with two down in the first. Trailing 4-2, Jacksonville tied it in the bottom of the second on consecutive hits by St. Clair, Mallison, Perry, and Greg Jones.
Gwatney broke the deadlock in the fifth when Tucker singled and scored on a double by LaDuris Perry. St. Clair singled in the second run then scored the third one on Mallison’s single.
Jacksonville would’ve gotten another tally but for a splendid defensive play by Texarkana catcher Triston Carlow and pitcher Alex Kugler. Blake Perry doubled and when Mallison tried to score, the relay to the plate was high. Carlow retreated and came up the line to catch the ball. In a blink, he flipped the ball to Kugler at the plate in time for the tag to end the inning.
But Jacksonville added a run in the sixth. McDonald singled, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a two-out infield hit by Tucker.
St. Clair, after working around singles by Carlow and Kemon Freemon in the top of the sixth, pitched around a one-out error in the seventh to close out the win.