Friday, May 25, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> All Stars split pair of games at UALR

Leader sportswriter

LITTLE ROCK – The top high school baseball players in central Arkansas came together Thursday for an exhibition doubleheader in the annual Metro All-Star game at UALR’s Gary Hogan Field.

Cabot, Jacksonville, Sylvan Hills, Beebe and Lonoke combined to bring nine players to the honorable postseason classic. All of whom contributed in both games whether it was at the plate or on the mound as the South team beat the North 7-2 in game one. North earned the victory in game two, winning by a close 4-3 margin.

Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton and Lonoke coach Darrick Lowery coached the North team along with Mayflower coach Joe Albritton. Tipton had three recent graduates representing the Bears, who finished the year with another state tournament appearance.

Lane Moore represented Lonoke in the classic less than a week after the Jackrabbits competed in the class 4A state championship game, losing a competitive 4-0 game against three-time state champion Shiloh Christian.

“It’s always an honor any time you get around 50 talented players in central Arkansas,” said Tipton about coaching the North team. “This gives these kids a chance to play and any time, as far as a coach, it’s always an honor to be around such a great group of guys.”

Moore scored the first run of the day for North after singling in the gap in right field to lead off the second inning of game one. One batter later, Dylan Boone of Sylvan Hills grounded out but drove in Moore with the sacrifice.

Jesse Harbin and University of Arkansas signee D’Vone McClure represented Jacksonville in the game. McClure went 1 for 2 with a single at the plate in the first game, and walked in game two in limited action. Harbin pitched the second and third innings of game one, striking out two in his time on the mound.

McClure was the leadoff hitter in game one and Harbin, who didn’t get to the plate in the first part of the twin bill, was the leadoff man in the second game. Harbin scored the first run for North in game two after starting the bottom of the third with a leadoff single to left field.

Sylvan Hills’ Lance Hunter followed with a single in the left gap, and Maumelle’s Ryan Brown singled two batters later to drive in both Harbin and Hunter to put North up 2-0.

Connor Eller of Sylvan Hills pitched the first two innings of game two and set the tone early for North by not giving up any runs in his time on the hill.

The South team scored six of its seven runs in the first two innings of game one that helped put the game out of reach.

Moore came in to relieve Eller in the third and pitched the next two innings, but gave up two runs in the top of the fourth after Harbin and Hunter scored the previous inning.

Ryan Scott of North Little Rock, who was named North’s Most Valuable Player, put his squad back on top in the fifth with a single that drove in two runs. Scott also had the hit of the day his previous at bat when he hit a hard fly ball off the top of the wall at the 390 foot mark in straightaway centerfield that helped him earn the award.

Boone earned the win in game two after coming in to relieve Moore in the fifth, striking out one while not giving up any runs in his inning of work.

South gave North a scare in the final inning as closer Connor Gilmore of Little Rock Catholic walked in South’s third run of the day with two outs.

Gilmore was able to pick up the save after the next batter, White Hall’s Chris Bryan, hit a hard chopper to the mound. Gilmore bare-handed the ball and tossed it to first for the final out of the game.

“It’s great that they do something like this for these schools to get some exposure,” said Lowery. “It definitely shows that we have some guys that can compete at any level.

“I think it’s huge. It’s not just northwest Arkansas or any other region around here. We’re all pretty competitive, and I think it’s great for the state.”

Dakota Lovston and Zack May represented the Beebe Badgers for the North. Cabot catcher T.C. Carter walked his only at bat in game one for South, and caught all seven innings in the second game.