Friday, April 18, 2008

SPORTS >>Sylvan Hills splits with Forrest City

For the Leader

Make no mistake, Sylvan Hills has proved to be the best baseball team in the 6A-East Conference, and will more than likely win the outright league championship. The Bears have displayed superhuman tendencies through the first eight conference games, going unbeaten and outscoring their opponents by more than three to one.

But Tuesday at Forrest City, their mortality showed for the first time this season and the Mustangs took full advantage of the suddenly human Bears by going where no other team in the 6A-East has been this season. Forrest City entered Tuesday’s conference varsity doubleheader with visions of winning both ends of the twin bill.

They settled for a split, and for the moment own the title of being the only 6A-East teamwith a victory over the Bears. The Mustangs won the opening game 7-1, before Sylvan Hills regained its league-leading form and took game two by the identical 7-1 score.

The Bears stand at 9-1 in the conference while the Mustangs are 4-4 in the East and 9-7 overall.

The doubleheader had everything a baseball fan could want — a huge pitching performance by one of the smallest players on the field, a one-inning meltdown, a one-inning offensive outburst, a meltdown and ejection of a head coach and enough hit batters to last an entire season.

Forrest City senior Justin Cochran got the start for the Mustangs in the first game and came up big by going the distance to earn the 7-1 victory.

His counterpart, Sylvan Hills pitcher Hunter Miller lasted only 2-1/3 innings, giving up six runs on six hits with three strikeouts. Miller also committed two errors in the crucial third inning, which helped jumpstart the Mustang offensive uprising.

Cochran and Leslie Parker opened the Forrest City third inning with back-to-back singles to bring Cory Deere to the plate.

Miller, trying to pick off Parker at first base, overthrew Bears’ first baseman Blake Evans allowing Cochran to tie the game at 1-1 and leaving Parker standing at third.

Deere’s RBI single scored Parker for a 2-1 Mustang lead before Miller made his second error of the inning, throwing away Barrett Beshears’ sacrifice bunt and sending Deere to third.

Barrett Astin was hit by a Miller pitch, but was forced at second base on Findley Scott Laws’ fielder’s choice play, which scored Deere for a 3-1 lead.

Joey Bonds followed with an RBI single to bring in Beshears for a 4-1 lead which sent Miller from the mound to centerfield in favor of Chris Dalton, who took over the Bears’ pitching duties with one out and two Mustang runners on.

Raymond Patillo greeted Dalton with a single to load the bases for Chance Pearson, who used a fielder’s choice play to get on base which erased Patillo at second and scored Laws for a 5-1 lead.

That brought Cochran back for his second plate appearance of the inning.

Dalton misplayed Cochran’s infield ground ball which allowed Bonds and Pearson to score, pushing the Mustangs’ lead to 7-1.

Parker was hit by a pitch before Deere made the final out of the inning.

Cochran made the 7-1 lead stand up, allowing only two Sylvan Hills base runners over the final four innings, both by walks and leaving both stranded at first base.

Dalton gave up one run on two hits and one walk in his three and 2/3 innings of work.

Sylvan Hills took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning when Nathan Eller walked, was sacrificed to second by Jake Chambers and moved to third when Jordan Spears reached base using an infield single. Eller scored on a sacrifice flyout by Evans.

Game two began with quite a bang when Sylvan Hills head coach Denny Tipton was ejected in the first inning after arguing a bang-bang call at first base. Tipton’s outburst and ejection woke the Bears from their first-game hibernation, who went on to take the nightcap, 7-1.

Sylvan Hills plated three runs in the bottom of the first inning using two walks, one sacrifice and one hit batter, as Clint Thornton, Miller and Eller all scored.

Sylvan Hills got runs from Eller and Justin Treece in the bottom of the third to push the lead to 5-0 before the Mustangs got on the board in the top of the fourth when Laws singled, went to second on a passed ball and scored when Patillo’s ground ball was misplayed for an error.

The Bears added a pair of runs in the sixth inning when Miller and D.J. Baxendale had consecutive singles and each scored.

That would be all the Mustangs would get in the nightcap as starting junior pitcher Baxendale went the distance, holding the

Mustangs to the one run while scattering five hits with one walk and recording nine strikeouts.

Forrest City sent Astin to the mound for the first four innings before Bonds came on to throw the final two innings.

Astin gave up five Sylvan Hills runs on six hits and two walks while striking out four and hitting four batters.

Bonds went two innings, giving up two runs on four hits and one walk with one hit batter and one strikeout.

The Class 6A state tournament begins May 9 at Texarkana. The 6A-East Conference will send the top six teams to the tournament to face the top six teams from the 6A-South Conference.