E.A. Sports Today

Returning hero

Right-hander Jarrell pitches well returning to a comfortable mound, helps Monsters get another road win, holding off Wild Things

A.J. Jarrell returned to his college mound Wednesday night and helped the Choccolocco Monsters win another road game in the Sunbelt Baseball League. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

WALESKA, Ga. – Steve Gillispie needed a pitcher to give him some calming innings after the Choccolocco Monsters just came through a tough one. Why not go to a guy who’s most familiar with the mound they were playing on that night?

Next: Columbus, Friday, Choccolocco Park, 7:05 p.m. WVOK-FM (79.9)

The Monsters manager brought in A.J. Jarrell with one out in the fifth after Garrett Sagro couldn’t hold a five-run lead in his Monsters debut and the right-hander gave the Monsters every chance to stay in the game.

Jarrell threw zeroes until the ninth inning when it started getting dicey, but Harris Burns came behind him to close it out, saving another Monsters road win, 8-7. All six of the Monsters wins this season have come on the road.

Why was Jerrell the perfect choice at that time? He made five relief appearances for Reinhardt this past season, regularly working off the Ken White Field mound where the teams were playing Wednesday night.

“It was planned that he would pitch there because that’s his field,” Gillispie said. “But I think we got the kind of outing we got tonight because he was confident there. He’s familiar there.

“There were two or three Reinhardt guys in Waleska’s lineup, so there was a real familiarity with that. Familiarity breeds confidence and that’s how he pitched tonight. He was very confident. There were some mistakes, but he made some pitches. He really did play well and made some big pitches throughout his outing.”

Until the ninth when the Wild Things loaded the bases with nobody out it was Jarrell’s best outing since two innings of one-hit shutout relief behind starter Garrett Telaga against the Atlanta Crackers on June 17.

He put out the fire in the fifth with a couple infield outs and also worked out of a jam in the seventh with runners at second and third and one out to preserve the lead his teammates gave him in the top of the inning. His line for the ninth was 3 2/3 innings, three hits, two runs (one earned), a walk and two strikeouts.

“To me, honestly, it just felt like it was kind of like home-field advantage,” he said. “During the season I threw off that mound two to three times a week. I feel comfortable. I like where it is, the way it’s set up and everything. There’s no place I’d rather pitch than there, honestly. It was kind of like homecoming for me.

“The past two weeks I kind of feel like I’ve been kind of struggling a little bit. I think tonight was really good for me to kick back in and get some confidence going.”

The Monsters gave Jarrell an 8-5 lead in the seventh. Brandon Prince got it started with a one-out walk and immediately stole second and third on right-hander Skyler Thellman. Josh Cooper reached on a ball Thellman couldn’t handle and then he stole second. J.J. Rapp broke the 5-5 tie with a two-run double down the left-field line and he scored on Weston Kirk’s first hit since joining the Monsters.

Rapp, Jelani Howard and Jackson Sweatt had two hits apiece. Rapp had three RBIs and was responsible for five runs. Kirk had two RBIs. 

Without Shutdown Daniel Swatek available, Gillispie gave Jarrell a chance to close it out in the ninth because he was comfortable with his changeup against the impending matchups, but the Wild Things spoiled those plans.

They loaded the bases with none out, prompting Gillispie to bring Burns from the bullpen. Burns, who has probably never pitched on Reinhardt’s field before, hit his first batter to force in a run and then gave up a sacrifice fly to make it 8-7. A grounder for the second out moved the winning run into scoring position, but Burns snuffed out the threat by getting a game-ending fly to right.

“Burns came in and cleaned it up,” Gillispie said. “He’d been in some big spots in previous games. Once we got back to the part of the lineup Burns’ stuff matched up good, then it kind of worked to get Jerrell out.”

Sagro was coming back from a forearm strain and blister on his throwing hand and Gillispie had considered giving him the start, but turned to Alexander McKay hoping to set up better matchups for the Georgia Highlands freshman when he did enter the game.

McKay, the loser in his last two appearance but owner of the team’s best ERA (3.81), gave the Monsters four shutout innings, allowing three hits and striking out three. The right-hander from Mercer got out of a bases-loaded one-out jam in the second with first-to-home fielder’s choice and his first strikeout of the game.

Sagro started the fifth with a 5-0 lead. He faced seven batters and six reached safely. The first five batters he faced reached and scored. He walked four, hit a batter that forced home a run, threw two run-scoring wild pitches and gave up an RBI double to Micah Morgan that was the only hit of the inning. Even the out he got scored a run.

“That was his first outing with us, so I’m sure he was a little amped up,” Gillispie said. “I really thought it was a good situation for him. They had all those left-handers coming up, we had a five-run lead, I thought it would be a really good situation for him to come in without any pressure. The ball was coming out his hand really good, but he was probably a little amped up. He’s ready to be with us on a regular basis. I think he’s got good stuff.”

Choccolocco       002 210 300 – 8 10 2
Waleska                000 050 002 – 7   7 3
WP: A.J. Jarrell. LP: Skyler Thellman. S: Harris Burns. 2B: J.J. Rapp (C), Jackson Sweatt (C), Micah Morgan (W).

Sunbelt Baseball League standings

Gainesville GolDiggers154.789
Waleska Wild Things88.5005.5
Alpharetta Aviators414.22210.5
Atlanta Crackers105.667
Atlanta Blues99.5002.5
Brookhaven Blues89.4713
Columbus Chatt-a-Hoots88.500
Gwinnett Astros77.500
Choccolocco Monsters611.3532.5

Wednesday’s Games
Alpharetta 2, Brookhaven 1
Atlanta Blues 6, Gainesville 2
Choccolocco 8, Waleska 7

Friday’s Games
Brookhaven at Gainesville, 5:35 p.m.
Gwinnett at Atlanta Blues, 6:05 p.m.
Waleska at Atlanta Crackers, 6:05 p.m.
Columbus at Choccolocco, 7:05 p.m.

Saturday’s Games
Gwinnett at Atlanta Crackers, 1:05 p.m.
Gainesville at Brookhaven, 5:35 p.m.
Alpharetta at Waleska, 6:05 p.m.
Choccolocco at Columbus, 6:05 p.m.

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