Friday, March 23, 2012

SPORTS >> Bears topple 7A powerhouse

Leader sportswriter

BENTON – The Sylvan Hills Bears baseball team knocked off the Fayetteville Bulldogs 4-1 Thursday at Panther Field in Benton.

Sylvan Hills is one of 16 teams competing in the Central Arkansas Invitational tournament hosted by Catholic High School.

“It was a wild night, all the way around,” said Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton about the game. “I thought Connor Eller pitched his guts out tonight. Fayetteville is a powerhouse 7A team, and he (Eller) walked out here and really just gave up some infield hits. He really did a great job.”

Eller threw all seven innings for the Bears, striking out eight and not allowing a single walk. The only run Eller allowed was in the top of the seventh when Fayetteville freshman Andy Pagnozzi, son of former St. Louis Cardinals catcher Tom Pagnozzi, singled to drive in Carson Shaddy.

Pitching was solid for both teams early, as neither team was able to put any runs on the board after two innings of play. After another scoreless inning for Fayetteville (4-3, 0-2), Sylvan Hills (7-3, 2-0) started connecting at the plate in the bottom of the third.

Junior right fielder J.D. Miller singled to start the inning, and after Miller stole second, Chase Imoff moved Miller to third on a sacrifice bunt. Leadoff hitter Brandon Baioni then sent Miller home on an infield single.

Dylan Boone followed with a single, and Eller hit a one out double that drove in both Baioni and Boone to give the Bears a 3-0 lead.

“I thought we had some key opportunities,” Tipton said of the Bears’ third-inning rally. “We got our bunts down, and they came through. Overall, I think this was a great win for us.”

Both teams were held scoreless in the fourth and fifth innings, but Sylvan Hills was able to get an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth after a Bears player stole home, giving Sylvan Hills a four-run lead.

Baioni, Eller and Miller each went 1-3 for the game. Boone was the only player for either team with multiple hits, going 2-3 with two singles.

Even though Sylvan Hills didn’t light up the scoreboard with runs, the pitching and defensive play was strong. That is what Tipton believes is the key for winning ball games.

“This is our goal. Every night we step out, we feel like if we don’t walk anybody and we don’t make an error, we’ll win,” Tipton said. “I think that goes for anybody, but tonight we played good defense and we pitched well, and we got some timely hits.

“We still have a lot to work on. We’re still young. We have to continue to get better every day. It’s just from the small things like getting some guys on when we have a guy on third with less than two outs, and just continuing to pitch well.”