Tuesday, May 25, 2010

SPORTS>>Wolves stop Lions in 6A

Leader sportswriter

FAYETTEVILLE — Dillon Howard’s tour through the infield never included a stop at the spot where Searcy needed him most — the pitcher’s mound.

With Howard playing the field instead of pitching, Lake Hamilton beat Searcy 9-1 in the 6A state championship game at Baum Stadium on Friday. It was Searcy’s second loss in its second consecutive trip to the final.

Howard, Searcy’s right-handed, NCAA Division I pitching prospect, started the game at third base, moved to first when Reed Haggard relieved starter Preston Tarkington in the bottom of the second and finished the game at shortstop after another late pitching change.

“He had a sore arm still from Monday night,” Searcy coach Clay McCammon said of Howard, who worked four innings of Searcy’s semifinal victory over defending state champion Benton. “There was apossibility we could have got an inning out of him, but it would have had to been a game-saving situation.”

The Wolves (21-6) got to Tarkington immediately with a two-run, inside the park home run by Dalton Daniels, the No. 3 hitter, followed by a home run from cleanup man Carter Greathouse. Tyler Bradshaw hit a three-run home run in the second to make it 6-1 and chase Tarkington from the game.

Haggard managed to end Lake Hamilton’s home-run derby, but walked four batters in the third and fourth innings, two of which turned into runs.

“I’ve got to give Lake Hamilton credit, they came out swinging the bats,” McCammon said. “They had big home runs in the first two innings. I wish we would have played better. Our kids had a good year but they outplayed us; they deserved to win.”

Searcy (23-9) got off to a fast start when leadoff batter Haggard singled to right and scored when Lake Hamilton right fielder Tyler Bradshaw dropped a fly ball by Howard to give the Lions a 1-0 lead.

But that’s where the scoring stopped for Searcy.

“He got us out on our front foot a lot,” McCammon said of winning pitcher Jonathon Rucker, who pitched a complete game with four strikeouts and one walk.

Wolves’ No. 2 batter Levi Runyan walked in the top of the first inning and was followed by Daniels, who hit a drive just past Jared Eades in center field and sped around the bases as Eades chased the ball to the warning track.

That made it 2-1 and Greathouse followed with his drive over the wall to make it 3-1.

Tarkington walked Cody Jackson and Randy Young in the bottom of the second before facing Bradshaw a second time.

Bradshaw, the leadoff hitter, grounded out to short in his first at-bat but found the pitch he wanted on his second trip to deliver the three-run shot over the wall near the left corner to give the Wolves a 6-1 lead.

Reed Haggard gave up a run in the bottom of the third on a wild pitch and Chris Bond relieved him, giving up a bases-loaded walk later in the inning as the Wolves improved their lead to 8-1.

Lake Hamilton got its last run in the bottom of the fifth when Chris Oldner reached on an error and scored two batters later on another error.

“I’m so proud of them I can’t stand it,” Lake Hamilton coach Gary Curtis said. “They’ve done a great job of staying focused and not getting too wound up. It’s easy to do in this environment, you can imagine. We haven’t had many leads this year, but when we’ve had one, we’ve tried to keep getting more.”

Searcy finished with five hits and three errors. Lake Hamilton had five hits and one error.