By Jeffery Armstrong
For the Mt. Zion Bulldogs baseball team, it was d?j? vu all over again.
The Jonesboro Cardinals batted around in a five-run third inning Friday night, defeating Mt. Zion 7-4 in Region 2-AAAAA action at Jonesboro. For the second time in two nights, an opposing team has batted around against the Bulldogs. Eagle's Landing did the same thing on Thursday, batting around twice.
"It seems like my guys are almost expecting [batting around] to happen now," said Mt. Zion head coach Bruce Jones, who was a Jonesboro assistant coach years ago. "Once again, we don't make the clutch plays to get out of the inning and bad things result."
Jonesboro (17-5, 12-2) remains in first place in the region standings; Mt. Zion falls to 8-13, 5-8 in the region.
Mt. Zion looked poised to pull its second upset in a week, taking advantage of wildness by Jonesboro starting pitcher Branan Norsworthy to claim a 4-2 lead in the top of the third inning. Norsworthy didn't have his stuff Friday, walking two straight batters, and hitting one to load the bases. Mt. Zion's Dusty White hit a sacrifice fly and Cannady Walker hit a two-run single in a three-run third.
Amazingly, Mt. Zion had four runs on only two hits Walker's single and an RBI single by White in the first inning.
Jonesboro's big third inning came off young Bulldogs pitcher Joey Richardson, who gave up only six hits despite not having much speed on his pitches. Half of those six hits came in the Cardinals' third, however. Mt. Zion committed three errors in that inning and Cardinals' left fielder Zach Werho had a big RBI single to break the game open.
Jonesboro's free-swinging batters didn't adjust themselves to Richardson's slow pitches, often swinging on the first pitch, and were held to two hits after the third inning.
Harry Nutter was the only Cardinal who did well at the plate, going 2-for-3 with an RBI. Nutter also made a nice double play in the Mt. Zion seventh.
The star of the game for Jonesboro was junior left-handed relief pitcher Frankie Crawley, who replaced Norsworthy in the fourth inning and shut the Bulldogs down. Crawley did a great job of mixing his pitches to fool Mt. Zion. In three innings, Crawley allowed no hits, struck out six and walked two. Ty Lewis pitched the seventh for his fourth save, a team record for saves in a season.
"My main focus coming in was to shut Mt. Zion down and keep us ahead," said Crawley. "My mechanics are better than they were last year; I've been doing the necessary things in practice to pitch better."
Jonesboro head coach Don Corr wasn't pleased with the way the team played, but was happy with the results.
"It's good to win a game like this. We had a rough start but we battled back," Corr said. "We didn't play our best, but we won and that's what counts."
Jonesboro travels to play Westside-Macon Monday at 5:30 p.m.