Friday, May 04, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Bears earn conference title

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills won a share of the 5A Southeast Conference championship with a doubleheader sweep at Monticello on Tuesday, but the Bears needed some help they didn’t get in order to earn the league’s top seed in the state tournament.

Sylvan Hills and Watson Chapel each finished 13-1 in league play, splitting their doubleheader in Sherwood three weeks ago, but the Wildcats held the tiebreaker and will get the top seed.

Conner Eller, Sylvan Hills top pitcher, threw well and won game one 13-6, but it was No. 2 pitcher Dylan Boone’s night to shine on Tuesday. In the nightcap, Boone faced the minimum of 21 batters in his seven-inning 5-0 shutout of the Billies.

He gave up two hits, but got infield grounders and the defense turned double plays on both runners. Boone also walked two, but both were thrown out attempting to steal second by catcher Lance Hunter.

“Dylan threw an unbelievable game,” Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton said. “He was hitting his spots and they just couldn’t do anything with him.”

One caught-stealing by Hunter came in unorthodox fashion. Hunter thought a called ball four had been tipped, and was waiting for the umpire to hand him a new ball when the Monticello runner got to first base. Seeing Hunter had not retrieved the ball, the runner decided to sneak into second, but didn’t make it.

“It was kind of a little brain lapse by Hunter there, but he got the out,” Tipton said.

It was the offense, particularly the long ball that did the damage for the Bears in the first game. Sylvan Hills scored six runs in the top of the first inning. The highlight of the inning was a three-run home run by freshman designated hitter Hunter Heslep. Monticello got three in the bottom of the same frame, but that’s as close as the host team would get the rest of the way.

“We jumped out on them and then sort of held them at bay,” Tipton said. “They hit Conner a little bit. He’s had a week’s rest between starts all season, but then he threw 138 pitches last Thursday, so I think he wasn’t fully rested. But he still did a pretty good job.”

Hunter hit a two-run home run in the third inning to extend the Bears’ lead to 8-3.

Sylvan Hills committed no errors in either game, which has been a mantra of Tipton’s all season.

“When we don’t make mistakes we win ball games,” Tipton said. “That’s the key for us.”

The Southeast is matched up with the East in the first round of the playoffs. The Bears will be back in Monticello at 2:30 p.m. Thursday to face the East’s three seed, which could be Nettleton, Greene County Tech or Batesville.

The 5A classification has no clear frontrunner this year, and Tipton believes his 22-7 team has as good a shot as any team.

“We’re right there,” Tipton said. “We have some depth in the pitching rotation. If we can hit the ball like we’re capable of and not make mistakes, I like our chances. I’ll take this bunch over any out there.”