Monday, July 03, 2006

SPORTS >> Bruin pitching improves

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills’ AAA American Legion team started the season a little shallow in the pitching department, but that area has come along nicely, and the Bruins now have three solid starters. Tony Pavan has been in the starting rotation since the beginning, but his durability has improved dramatically and that has helped his team dramatically as well. Pavan’s latest performance came Thursday night in the first round of the Gwatney Chevrolet Fourth of July Classic, when he kept Sheridan off balance and led his team to a 2-0 victory. It was the third win of the week for Sylvan Hills, who also toppled Maumelle Tuesday, and traveled to Russellville to pick up a win Wednesday night.

The three victories lift Sylvan Hills’ record to 25-7 so far on the season.

Sylvan Hills coach Mike Bromley is very pleased with his pitcher’s progress.

“He was having some trouble finishing games when we first started,” Bromley said. “”But it was between the ears. His endurance is fine. I’ve just been leaving him out there and making him work until the end. He’s done fine for me.”
Thursday’s effort was Pavan’s fourth complete game of the year, three of which have been wins. He carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning and finished with a three-hitter, striking out three and walking two.

The Sylvan Hills bats didn’t light the place up Thursday either, but they did enough to get the win. Taylor Roark led off the top of the third inning with a walk. Nathan Van Schoyck bunted him to second. That brought leadoff hitter Shawn Bybee to the plate, who got the game’s first base hit, a single to right field that scored Roark.

Pavan gave up his first hit to the leadoff hitter, Matt Buie, in the fourth, but got Freddy Flores to ground into a 6-4-3 double play on the next at bat. Kris Pruitt then flew out to right field.

He sat the side down in order in the bottom of the fifth, fanning Steven Harp to end the half-inning.

Sheridan’s biggest threat came in the sixth. Pavan walked the leadoff hitter and hit the third batter with one out. He struck out Buie, then gave up a single to right field by Flores, but Chase Elder made a great play to force Sheridan’s Matt Kimball to stop at third base.

Pavan then got Pruitt to ground out to third to end the threat.

Sylvan Hills’ Austin Gwatney added the insurance run in the sixth. He led off by reaching on an error at shortstop. Nathan Van Schoyck moved him to third with a single to centerfield. Three batters later with two outs, Ashur Tolliver singled to right to drive in the run.

Sheridan pitcher Lucas Cossey also went the distance, giving up four hits while walking two batters. The defense committed three errors behind him while Sylvan Hills played error-free baseball.

“I’m pleased with the defense,” Bromley said. “We’ve cleaned things up on defense pretty good in the last 10 or 15 games. We started out kind of shaky and made a lot of mistakes.

“Hitting, we’re not consistent enough. We’ll have a good game and then a bad one. We didn’t do a very good job tonight of being patient. That pitcher did a good job of keeping us off balance, but he was a little wild at times and we weren’t making him make pitches. We will take batting practice before we play again.”

The Bruins played the late game last night against Jonesboro after Leader deadlines. They will play again Sunday at noon against Dunklin Co., Mo.