The Jacksonville Gwatney Junior American Legion made it to the state championship game against Bryant Tuesday night but couldn’t quite over the hump in a 5-3 loss.
Almost no team was able to get past Bryant this season that finished with a 33-1 record.
Jacksonville’s 32-6 record was nothing to sneeze at either, with two of those losses coming to Bryant during the state tournament.
The Chevy Boys had their chances in the game, leaving runners on base in five of the seven innings. Jacksonville loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth inning while trailing 4-2. Derek St. Clair led off the inning with a single, followed by a walk to Ryan Mallison. Blake Perry sacrificed the runners and was also safe on a fielder’s choice when the pitcher was unable to get the out at third. Jacksonville got one run out of the situation with a pop out, a fielder’s choice that scored St. Clair and a strikeout to end the inning.
Bryant scored first with a pair of runs in the first inning off starter Josh Cook. Cook, who hadn’t pitched in over two weeks, got the call and kept Jacksonville in the game, trailing just 4-3 when he left in the fifth.
Jacksonville got their first two runs in the second inning with DJ Scott and Dontae Harris each hitting two-out singles. A single by St. Clair that was also mishandled in the outfield allowed Scott and Harris to score and tie the game 2-2.
Bryant retook the lead the following inning thanks to a home run and an unearned run. They would never give up that lead.
The Black Sox added an important insurance run in the top of the sixth inning. The runner got on by way of an error, and then later scored on a passed ball.
Jacksonville began the seventh inning near the top of the order, but a fly ball and grounder quickly produced two outs. Greg Jones reached on an error and advanced on a wild pitch, but the Bryant pitcher was able to snag a come backer and end the game.
Jacksonville road to the championship game was an interesting one. The Chevy Boys began the tournament with a 6-3 win over the Little Rock Cobras, came back with Blake Perry tossing a complete game 1-0 shutout over the host Cabot team, then lost 6-1 to Bryant where Bryant scored just one earned run.
Now facing an elimination game, Jacksonville beat Little Rock again 6-3 when the Little Rock coach thought the Jacksonville fans were providing the wrong kind of atmosphere for his players, stopped and forfeited the game in the fourth inning.
That win against Little Rock put Jacksonville in the championship game against Bryant after the Black Sox beat Cabot 2-1.
Gwatney advances to the American Legion regional tournament to be held this weekend in Bryant. The Chevy Boys are matched up with the Texas state champs Friday afternoon at 3:30 at Bryant High School.