Friday, May 25, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> A farewell to spring seasons

Leader sportswriter

Spring sports teams in our coverage area came up short when it came to claiming state championships, but there were plenty of memorable performances, some for the better, and some….well….not so much.

We had two teams make the state finals in baseball with Lonoke and Carlisle. The Jackrabbits backed up their strong performance in the regular season with a No. 3 seed out of regionals and plowed their way through the 4A state tournament, earning a trip to Baum Stadium to take on Shiloh Christian in the championship game.

The Saints were not any more impressive at the plate than Lonoke, but those guys played defense better than any high-school team I’ve seen in quite some time. Not only did they not commit a single error, but never came close to making a mistake. Winning Shiloh pitcher David Petrino (no relation to disgraced former Hogs coach Bobby Petrino) shut the ’Rabbits down at the plate for the most part, giving up a couple of late hits that ended up stranded.

On a side note, the victory for SC marks the third time a Saints team has defeated a Lonoke team for a state championship dating back to the girls 4A state basketball title in 2008, and the infamous Josh-Floyd led football team, which beat Doug Bost’s football Jackrabbits a year later. Love them or hate them, the northwest Arkansas teams always show up for the big games.

The Bison, led by fifth-year coach B.J. Greene, had an equally impressive run through the postseason and found themselves pitted against Woodlawn in the 2A championship game.

Carlisle had never been past the semifinal round whereas the Bears had been to the state finals four times in the past five years, winning the big game two of those times.

Unfortunately for Carlisle and Woodlawn, the game will forever be remembered for Bison senior Haydon Hoover flipping out and losing his composure in the bottom of the fourth inning.

I am not going to defend young Mr. Hoover nor tear him down, but I will say that I had the chance to talk to him and the other five seniors on Thursday before they walked through their final practice in preparation for the trip to Fayetteville.

I found him, as well as the other five seniors, to be pleasant and well mannered. Yes, he did step over the line, and yes, tantrums such as the one he threw have no place on the baseball field, but let’s remember this is a kid who missed his high-school graduation to play in a baseball game nearly four hours from home where the kids he grew up with were walking to receive their diplomas.

The score was 12-2 in favor of Woodlawn, and it was evident at that point the game was not going to go a full seven innings when the umpire made the call. The debate on whether or not the call should have been made has been constant throughout the week, but calling a kid out on a play like that with a score that out of control is simply pouring salt in an open wound.

On the softball side of things, we had several teams make it to the state tournament, but few who advanced past the first round.

In soccer, the Sylvan Hills teams represented the 5A Southeast Conference well by reaching the quarterfinal round of the 5A state tournament. The Lady Bears ended their season with a tough loss to a dominant CAC team while the Bears boys’ team fell just short to Greenbrier in a classic defensive struggle.

The conference realignment will pit the Hillside teams with much tougher competition the next two years, but I will tell you right now, those Lady Bears are going to be loaded. It would not surprise me at all if they rose through the ranks and made it to Fayetteville in a couple of years.

That does it for another school year, and if we don’t die from the heat of summer Legion baseball, we will do it all over again in the fall.