Friday, May 25, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Opener sees win, loss for Jr. Bruins

Leader sportswriter

It took nearly a complete game for the Sylvan Hills junior Optimist Bruins to wake up against a tough opponent in the River Valley Tropics, as the Tropics won the first game 6-3 before the Bruins shut them out 2-0 in the night cap of the Central District twin bill.

Marcus Long went the five-inning distance on the mound in game two to earn the win with four strikeouts against five hits.

Blake Maddox came away with the biggest hit of the night for Sylvan Hills with a triple smash to centerfield in the bottom of the fourth inning, and Maddox scored when Tropics second baseman Seth Siebenmorg tossed the ball into the dugout trying to send it to third.

“I was highly pleased with the second game,” Bruins coach Chris Foor said. “We came ready to play and had a little enthusiasm. The first game it was kind of like the end-of-school doldrums. This group has a lot of returners from last year. They’re looking to compete for a championship, and we just kind of had to remind each other of that.”

The Bruins scored their first run in the bottom of the third inning when Dawson Heslip singled and advanced on a sacrifice bunt by leadoff hitter Nathan Thomas. T.J. Burrows then sent Heslip in with a single shot to right to give Sylvan Hills a 1-0 lead.

Time was a factor in the first game, as the Bruins did not get going offensively until the bottom of the sixth inning just as the hour-and-50-minute time limit was about to expire. Three-hole hitter Brandon Baioni doubled to left and Hunter Heslip walked before Maddox sent both runners home with a double to deep left field. Maddox advanced to third on a single by Jacob White and scored on an error at first base.

“We started getting our sea legs under us so to speak,” Foor said. “We’ve had a week off. We had a long high-school season – JV, a lot of freshman games, and all of them dressed varsity as well. So you’re looking at over 60 games that those boys have dressed for. After the week off, they came back, and I think they were just flat. The hitting in the sixth inning, it kind of reignited them.”

Sylvan Hills experimented with its pitching in the first game as Connor Poteet threw the first two innings before giving way to Charlie Roberts in the top of the third inning.

Choudry Rehman made a brief appearance on the mound in the top of the sixth, but Matthew Dixon quickly replaced him after a hit by pitch and a walk to start the frame.

Long also had the benefit of a defense that appeared more in tune than the first game, as the Bruins sent their Clarksville-area opponents three up and three down in the top of the first inning and turned a double play in the next frame to keep runners out of scoring position.

Long did his part by striking out Chance Stinez to retire the side in the top of the second with a runner at third. Only Dalton Neus got multiple hits off of Long, going 2 for 2 with a triple.

“I expect Marcus to throw well,” Foor said. “As an eighth grader on this same team, he was one of our top two or three pitchers. He started the state tournament for us, he started the season for us – anytime he’s on the mound, I expect him to just throw strikes, and that’s exactly what he does.”

The split gave the Bruins a 1-1 record and moved the Tropics to 3-1.