By Chan Davis
OF THE COMMERCIAL STAFF
JACKSONVILLE — Simmons coach Dennis Dardenne knew Pierce Sloan wasn’t up to normal standards heading into Saturday’s AAA Legion game against Jacksonville’s Gwatney Chevrolet.
But Dardenne rolled the dice and tried his luck.
“He told me before the game that he wasn’t feeling well,” Dardenne said. “He said he would give me all he could give me. I told him that was all I could ask.”
Sloan’s ailment was too much to overcome as the right-handed hurler lasted only two-thirds of an inning as Gwatney scored four times in the first to take a 4-2 lead before Dardenne and Simmons could stop the bleeding.
“He was bad,” Dardenne said of Sloan’s performance. “It was time. It was time earlier but we let it go a little too long.”
Will Jacobs was the answer to the problem.
“With us playing last night, we were kind of getting short on arms,” Dardenne said. “Will came in and did a great job. You could not as for him to do a better job than what he did.”
Jacobs came on with two out in the first and held Gwatney in check enough the rest of the way to allow Simmons’ bats to crawl back into the game, eventually taking the lead with a three-run seventh to win 7-5.
“Our hitting has been coming around,” Dardenne said. “Hopefully we are going to do this by the end of the season and as long as they keep improving I think we will be all right.”
But it was Jacobs that gave Simmons the shot in the arm the ailing pitching staff needed. Jacobs fanned 12, seven looking, and drove in the game winner in the final inning.
“I can’t be focused all the time,” Jacobs said. “I’m not that guy. I have to play around in the dugout and stay loose. And I just felt good today.”
Jacobs, a Rison product, said he realized Sloan’s struggles and knew his time was drawing near.
“That’s when I started getting loose,” he said. “I knew he was sick and it probably wouldn’t be long. My slider was really on today. The fastball is always there but the slider was really on today.”
His time came again in the seventh after V.J. Dickson came through in the clutch with a run-producing single to tie the game, setting up Jacobs with two on and one out. Jacobs hit a sharp grounder to third and Dickson scored on the throw to first to put Simmons on top 6-5.
“The first pitch was a fast ball right down the middle,” Jacobs said. “I capped it a little but it worked out. I was just trying to put something in play.”
Josh Dardenne followed with a solid single to plate the final run.
“That was big,” Jacobs said. “Especially there at the end because they got the bases loaded (in the bottom of the seventh). That’s kind of a tough feeling. I know I say I’m loose but that’s a time you really have to focus.”
Landen Colson hit a two-run home run in the first and finished with three hits. Justin Dardenne singled and tripled while Nick Heffly added a single.
Jesse Harbin singled and doubled for Gwatney, Alex Tucker singled twice and James McCranie doubled.
“We had a bunch that were not here,” Gwatney coach Bobby Hickingbotham said. “We have a bunch that has all kinds of excuses. We are in the process right now of trying to figure out nine players we can put out there and not be embarrassed. That’s my number one thing right now is finding somebody that won’t embarrass me or the rest of us.”