The Jacksonville Red Devils split their final conference double-header, taking the first game 11-2 and dropping the second 5-1 at Pulaski Academy.
The Red Devils scored six runs in the sixth inning to break open the game, while starting pitcher Derek St. Claire continued to shut down the Bruins for a complete game win.
"He’s gone toe-to-toe with every team’s ace this season," said Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows. "He’s going to go out there and compete hard every game."
Caleb Reeves, Ryan Mallison and Greg Jones each had two hits in the win, with Mallison also driving in a pair of runs. Jones and DJ Scott had an RBI apiece as well.
The double-header split secured Jacksonville’s spot as the fourth seed in next week’s state tournament. The 5A-Central suffered a shakeup last week when Pulaski Academy swept then-league leader Sylvan Hills. That gave Little Rock Christian the top seed out of the Central. Jacksonville could have jumped to the third spot by winning the second game of the double-header.
Still, the fourth seed is a good spot for a team relying so heavily on sophomores this season.
"We split with PA and Christian and we beat Little Rock Central last week," Burrows said. "We’re playing our best baseball right now. I’m glad the state tournament is about to start."
Jacksonville will play Harrison next Thursday at Nettleton High School. The 5A-West could still have some teams move in the standings, but Harrison has already earned the top seed with their undefeated conference record.
"I’m going to watch them play today, but they’re apparently pretty solid," Burrows said. "But I’ll take my chances with anyone right now the way we’re playing."
Jacksonville finished the regular season 10-4 in conference and 12-12 overall after playing a tough schedule. Jones and Blake Perry were near the top of the batting average leaders, while most of the rest of the team are in the .260 to .290 range.
"We were in the lower .200s as a team earlier in the season, but everybody is starting to pick it up with the bats now," said Burrows. "As young as we are and the kind of competition we’ve played all year, I’m happy with how we’re swinging it now."