Wednesday, June 08, 2011

SPORTS>>Sylvan Hills takes honors at Gwatney tournament

Leader sports editor

None of the six teams in the Gwantey Chevrolet Junior Division Invitational Tournament escaped without a loss, but there was a clear winner. The Sylvan Hills Bruins beat the hosting Jacksonville squad 4-1 in the championship game Sunday evening to earn the first-place plaque.

All three teams in Sylvan Hills pool, which included Sheridan and North Little Rock, finished 1-1 in their roundrobin. Sylvan Hills won the tiebreaker by allowing the fewest runs of the three teams.

The Bruins had just one bad inning all weekend, and it cost them a win against Sheridan. Leading 3-1 heading into the final inning, Sylvan Hills gave up three runs without recording an out to drop the Saturday-afternoon affair in sweltering heat.

Other than that one inning, Bruins’ coach Chris Foor was very pleased with his team’s performance in the tournament.

“I thought overall we really played well,” Foor said. “Our pitching did very good. Our young pitching really stepped up.”

The Bruins started the tournament Friday night with a 12-8 win over North Little Rock. The Colts out hit the tournament winners 12-8, but the Bruin pitching got out of several jams to preserve the victory.

The Sheridan game was a pitchers’ duel. Sylvan Hills got just three hits in the game, while Bruins hurler Cody Hattabaugh was outstanding on the mound. He gave up a hard double to the first batter he faced, and nothing but a blooped infield single two batters later for the rest of his time on the mound. He went five innings, giving up just the two hits. He threw four straight no-hit innings from the second through the fifth, gave up just one unearned run and struck out eight batters while walking none.

Connor Poteet was almost as good in the championship game Sunday.

He gave up just two hits and struck out 10 Gwatney batters, but struggled with control at times. He walked six and hit two. Sylvan Hills didn’t get a lot of base hits in the tournament, but did show signs that the bats are getting better.

“It’s going to take time to get the timing down, but if you saw from game one to where we are now, it’s starting to come around. We’re making solid contact and those balls will start falling in for hits later in the year.”

For such a young team with little experience at this level, Foor believes winning the Gwantey Invitational means more than just another plaque for the trophy case.

“I think at such an early age, all the success we can get them, is teaching them how to win.”

The tournament left Sylvan Hills with a record of 5-3.