By Chan Davis
By Chan Davis
OF THE COMMERCIAL STAFF
JACKSONVILLE — Daniel Sprinkle put a dramatic halt to a hitting slump Saturday afternoon at Dupree Park in Jacksonville, belting two home runs and driving in four runs, leading Smart Dodge (6-1) to a 10-7 win over Gwatney Chevrolet (10-3) in AA Legion action at Hickingbotham Field.
Sprinkle deposited a Josh Cook fastball over the left field wall in the third inning to tie the game at 4 then hit a towering two-run shot over the scoreboard in left off reliever Andrew Tucker in the seventh, breaking a 7-7 deadlock and plating the eventual game-winning runs.
“I was more aggressive,” Sprinkle said of the breakout performance. “It was more of an approach of what pitches I was swinging at. I was swinging at good pitches and being aggressive with the bat.”
Sprinkle also came on in relief of starting pitcher Justin Archer in the third inning and Gwatney leading 4-3. He lasted three innings and gave up two runs on three hits, striking out three and walking one.
“He pitched a real good game,” Smart Dodge coach Russ Sparks said. “He has been our right arm. He has pitched well for us all year. He came in today and got us back on track. It could have been a different game.”
But it was Sprinkle’s day at the plate Sparks was most pleased with.
“He had struggled at the plate some until today,” Sparks said. “He has hit a couple of doubles here and there in different games but he really came through today. He came through today late in the game when we needed it.”
Sprinkle gave way to Daniel Gray in the sixth. Gray picked up the win, allowing only one hit and striking out two in two innings of work.
“I think I did my job, but I probably could have finished,” Sprinkle said. “I felt good when I came out.”
The lead changed hands seven times in the back-and-forth affair and was tied twice, the latter time entering the final frame when Zack Thurgood singled to start the inning for Smart Dodge. Sprinkle followed with the long ball and Alex Hartz followed with a double and scored on an RBI groundout by Turner Sparks.
Hartz also homered, going deep in the first inning to put Smart Dodge up 3-0. Jake Green singled and doubled and scored twice. Archer singled, doubled, scored once and drove in one.
Austin Allen singled twice and drove in three for Gwatney. Troy Allen doubled, stole a base and scored twice.
“I think we started out well and hit the ball well,” Gwatney coach Blake Cochran said. “The only thing is we didn’t stick with them. It was back and forth through the first five. They would get on top of us and we would get on top of them going back and forth. All in all we just didn’t finish today.”