The Jacksonville Red Devils showed last week why they have to be considered one of the top teams in Class 5A with a double-header sweep of the Sylvan Hills Bears.
Jacksonville took the first game 7-1, then won more of a pitcher’s duel 2-1 in the nightcap.
The opening game was battle of team aces with Jacksonville’s Derek St. Clair getting the best of Sylvan Hills’ Hunter Heslep.
While neither pitcher appeared to have their best stuff that day, it was Jacksonville’s offense that was able to take advantage. The Red Devils scored what turned out to be all they would need in the first inning thanks to hits from Courtland McDonald, Brandon Hickingbotham and Caleb Reeves, with Greg Jones and James Tucker getting out, but picking up RBIs.
While Heslep’s velocity and location seemed off, St. Clair was throwing as hard as ever, but was also struggling with location.
Sylvan Hills scored in the top of the second inning thanks to a pair of walks and hits on fastballs up in the zone.
Jacksonville took control of the game in the bottom of the inning by adding four runs to take a 6-1 lead. Blake Perry and Deaundre Harris got the inning started with each working walks. McDonald drilled one to the wall, followed by a walk to Hickingbotham that loaded the bases and allowed Reeves to drive in another pair. That was enough to chase Heslep and bring in the lefty Marcus Long for Sylvan Hills.
Jacksonville added an extra insurance run in the fifth inning when St. Clair stroked a single and was brought in by Harris.
St. Clair settled in after those early innings and went the distance, fanning nine over seven innings, while giving up four hits and four walks.
In the second game of the night, Tucker got the start on the mound for the Red Devils and went six innings for the win. Reeves came in the seventh and picked up the save after getting in a little trouble.
Jacksonville advantage of Sylvan Hills’ miscues in the third inning to take the lead. Perry reached on an error, then advanced to second on a wild pitch. With two out, McDonald singled in Perry for the 1-0 lead.
Sylvan Hills tied the game in the bottom of the fourth, but that wouldn’t last long, as Jacksonville came back with another run in the top of the fifth.
Harris sent the ball to the wall for a double, and then came around to score when McDonald followed with a double to right.
Sylvan Hills missed a key chance in the bottom of the inning when they loaded the bases, but couldn’t push a run across as Tucker pitched his way out of the jam.
The Bears threatened again in the seventh inning when Reeves walked one and hit another, but the senior used a strikeout and a pair of pop-ups to earn the save.
Tucker finished his night with six innings pitcher, six strikeouts and just one walk, while allowing five hits.