Tuesday, May 29, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe’s third try sees big progress

Leader sportswriter

Time was not on Beebe’s side as the Post 91 team lost 8-7 to Benton on the third day of the North Little Rock Junior American Legion baseball tournament at Burns Park on Sunday.

Beebe led 7-6 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning before Benton scored two unearned runs just as the game reached the one-hour, 50-minute time limit in the bottom of the fifth to claim its second victory of the tourney.

Although it marked the third consecutive loss for Beebe in the tournament, it was also a vast improvement for the young squad which was thrown together days before the start of the season. Beebe lost 16-0 to Jacksonville on the first day and fell 11-0 to Cabot on Saturday.

“We’re doing a lot better,” Beebe coach John Underwood said. “We came in here with absolutely no practice and got run ruled our first two games. We’re showing progress; I’m very proud of my guys.”

Five-hole hitter Tyler Parker drove in the first run for Post 91 in the top of the first inning when an error at shortstop allowed leadoff batter Luke Dixon home. Dixon started the game off with a single to left field and advanced on a single to left center by Elijah Cannon. Benton turned a double play when Jonathan Underwood hit a grounder to shortstop as Dixon advanced to third.

Benton scored three runs in the bottom of the first with a walk and three straight singles. Beebe tied the game in the top of the second. Dusty Greer led off the inning with a walk and scored when Dixon reached on an error at second base. Cannon then hit a single and advanced to second on another Benton error, which scored Dixon.

Benton went up 6-3 in the bottom of the third against relief pitcher Parker, who replaced starter Brandon Gray after two frames. Pitching became an issue for both teams during the slugfest, with each placing three different hurlers on the mound before game’s end. Cannon closed out the game for Post 91. Although he did not give up a hit, he hit Reynolds with a pitch to start the turn and walked Portman, and both scored on an infield error less than a minute before the game was called.

“That’s going to be a problem with us,” Underwood said. “I guarantee you we don’t have enough pitchers. We’re going to have to work some pitchers, but the next couple of weeks, we’ll hopefully have that figured out.”

Beebe forced two pitching changes by Benton in the top of the fourth inning. Greer led off with a single and advanced when Gray was hit by a pitch. Benton’s next pitcher then hit Matt Stillman with a pitch to load the bases and send Beebe back to the top of the order with Dixon, who reached on an error to score Greer.

Gray made the score 6-5 when he was gifted home on a balk, and Stillman tied the game when he charged home on a passed ball. Cannon gave Beebe its first lead since the top of the first on a sacrifice fly to centerfield to make it 7-6. Cannon was 2 for 4 with an RBI.

Underwood assembled the group from the ashes of Searcy’s dismantled junior program, and added kids from the Lonoke and Des Arc area to go along with local players from Beebe.

“This is Beebe’s first year to ever have American Legion,” Underwood said. “We actually started it late, that’s why we had no practice. Searcy cancelled and we brought in a bunch of boys. They’re going to come together and play ball. We’re starting to see which boys can do what.”