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Gwatney’s season ends at Bryant

Gwatney’s Brandon Hickingbotham makes a diving tag against Texarkana, Texas. Chad MatchettBuy Photo
Gwatney’s Brandon Hickingbotham makes a diving tag against Texarkana, Texas. Chad Matchett

After a long summer of baseball, more baseball and still more baseball, Gwatney Chevrolet saw their season come to a close in the semifinals of the American Legion regional tournament in Bryant.

The Jacksonville Junior Legion team finished their season 36-7 with a zone championship, runner-up to the state title and a semifinal appearance in the regionals.

The Chevy Boys began the regional tournament with a win over Texarkana - the Texas state champs - on Friday morning. That win set up another showdown with the rival Little Rock Cobras. Jacksonville had beaten Little Rock in three previous meetings, but couldn’t get the bats going against the Cobras this time in a 2-0 loss.

Sunday saw Jacksonville ready to take on Cabot yet again. Gwatney played Cabot twice in the zone tournament, losing 2-0 in a game where ace pitcher Derek St. Clair struck out 21, then winning 8-5 despite making seven errors. Jacksonville earned a 1-0 win over Cabot in the state tournament on the strength of a complete game shutout by Blake Perry.

Perry was back on the mound for Jacksonville to take on Cabot and even though he didn’t get a shutout this time, he did toss a no-hitter in the 15-1 win.

Cabot’s lone run came in the top of the first inning when leadoff man Lee Sullivan’s grounder to Perry was mishandled for an error. The next batter laid down a bunt to the pitcher, but this time a throwing error allowed Sullivan to score and put a man on third.

Perry more than made up for the errors the rest of the game, not allowing a hit while walking just two. He didn’t allow a base runner over the final three innings.

In previous low-scoring games with Jacksonville, Cabot had relied on dual aces Adam Hicks and Gavin Tillery on the mound. Hicks wasn’t at the game Sunday, while Tillery pitched a complete game the day before. Jacksonville took full advantage and banged out 12 hits in the win, while five different Cabot pitchers combined to walk 11 batters as well.

Jacksonville scored three in the first inning and never looked back. St. Clair led off with a double, followed by walks to Ryan Mallison and Perry. Greg Jones cleared the bases with a deep double to the wall. Perry walked three times, singled and scored four runs to help himself. Trevor Ransom got his first start of the tournament and had three singles. Laderrious Perry drove in a pair of runs with a triple, single and a walk. James Tucker had an RBI single, while Courtland McDonald and DJ Scott also both singled in the win.

With the bracket changing to keep teams from playing a team they had already played, Jacksonville was forced to take on Bryant instead of Little Rock on Monday night. Bryant had beaten Jacksonville in the state championship game in a close game, and had Gwatney’s number again with an 11-0 win. Bryant went on to win the regional tournament and earn a spot in the World Series with just one loss on the season.

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