Tuesday, July 19, 2011

SPORTS >> Bruins rally to pull off upset of rival Jacksonville

Leader sports editor

It wasn’t the greatest season the Sylvan Hills Bruins senior American Legion baseball team has ever enjoyed, but it did go out with a bit of a bang, upsetting Jacksonville 10-8 and ousting its rival from the Zone 3 tournament.

It was the fourth meeting of the year so far between the Gwatney Chevrolet squad and the Bruins, and the previous three were big Jacksonville wins.

The Bruins didn’t revel in victory for very long, as they had to play North Little Rock the next day, a game they lost 17-2 that ended the season, but Sylvan Hills coach Jim Fink was still pleased with how his team battled to the end, and picked up an unlikely win in postseason play.

“It really was a little bit of a surprise and I’m proud of the guys for sticking with it and battling,” Fink said. “We got a really good performance on the mound. We fell behind and then came back. I’m just proud of ‘em.”

Jacksonville indeed opened up hot. Leadoff hitter Jacob Abrahamson sent one out on the first at bat of the game.

A walk and two more singles put Gwatney up 2-0 in the top of the first. Sylvan Hills got one back in the bottom of the same frame. Greg Atchison walked and Connor Eller walked to lead off the inning, and Kory Arnold got an RBI base hit.

But the deficit grew worse in the second as Jacksonville plated three more runs to take a 5-1 lead. There were only two base hits in the inning, but combined with a walk and three Sylvan Hills errors, it turned into a disastrous inning for the Bruins. Not as disastrous, however, as the bottom of the third was for Jacksonville. Gwatney added a run to its lead in the third to make it 6-1, but that lead was gone by the end of the third.

That’s when Sylvan Hills scored six runs, thanks largely to wild pitching and timely hits.

Every run came with two outs. Nine-hole hitter Cory Jones got a one-out single, and Eller got another hit with two outs, and the wheels fell off for Jacksonville.

Arnold walked, Lance Hunter and Michael Lock singled, followed by two more walks from Aaron Sarna and Dalton Freeling. The six runs made it 7-6 Sylvan Hills.

The Bruins would add a run in the fourth to make it 8-6. Sarna, who reached on a fielder’s choice, scored on a two-out single by Ryan Brisco.

Jacksonville added a run in the sixth when Jesse Harbin scored on a triple by Xavier Brown, but the Bruins added two more in the seventh that Jacksonville couldn’t overcome.

Again with two outs, Jones walked and Atchison doubled to score the runner. Eller then singled to score Atchison and give the Bruins a 10-7 lead.

Gwatney tried to rally, adding a run in the last inning, but couldn’t complete the comeback, and bowed out of the postseason.

Lance Hunter started on the mound and got the win for the Bruins. He threw seven innings and kept his composure in the midst of Jacksonville’s big innings.

The ending was a disappointing one for Jacksonville, the team that entered the tournament with the best overall record (16-4).

Jacksonville, which was 16-3 two weeks ago, finished the season 17-6. losing three of its last four games to close what was overall a good season.