Tuesday, June 19, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Bruins end strong at tourney

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Bruins didn’t advance to bracket play in the Sheridan Wood Bat Classic over the weekend, but did close the event with a 7-4 win over Benton. The Bruins went 2-1 in the tournament, upping their season record to 7-4.

After beating Hot Springs Lakeside 1-0 to open the tournament on Thursday, the Bruins blew a late lead in a 12-9 loss to Texarkana, Texas. They bounced back on Saturday to earn a decisive, if sluggish, victory over Benton.

Sylvan Hills dominated most of the game, led by starting pitcher J.D. Miller, who turned in a dominant overall performance. But Miller, just like the rest of the team, suffered a lapse of focus in the fourth inning that allowed Benton to not just climb back into the game, but briefly take the lead.

With Sylvan Hills leading 2-0, Benton catcher Zach Carlinger got his second base hit into left field to start the fourth inning. It wasn’t just Carlnger’s second hit, it was only the second hit given up by Miller to that point.

He moved to second base when Miller walked Tyler Turbyville and scored on two passed balls by Lance Hunter.

Turbyville then scored on a single to right field by Kody Fortner. He moved to second on a bunt back to Miller by Dillon Pierce. Pierce also reached safely when no one covered first base on the play. Another Bruin error allowed Pierce to cross the plate and give Benton a 3-2 lead.

It didn’t last long, as the Bruins scored five in the bottom half of the same inning to set the final margin, allowing Miller to do the rest of the work from the mound.

Sylvan Hills left the bases loaded in the first inning, and again in the second, but not until two runs scored.

Blake Maddux started the rally with a double to centerfield. He moved to third base on an error at second base off the bat of Blake Holmes. Connor Eller was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Greg Atchison walked to drive in Maddox. Dylan Boone singled to score Holmes but all three base runners were left stranded after a 5-2 fielder’s choice and a fly out to right field.

After falling behind, the Bruins came back to score five runs on just two base hits in the bottom of the fourth. Eller walked and Atchison was hit to start the rally. Boone laid down a bunt single to load the bases. Miller walked to drive in one run, but was thrown out at second on Robert Brock’s 6-4 fielder’s choice that also scored Atchison. Austin Spears doubled to left field to score Boone. Brock scored on an error at first base and Spears crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly to centerfield by Maddox.

Miller went right back to work in the top of the fifth, striking out the first two batters before getting a pop up to Hunter to end the fifth inning quickly. He sat them down in order again in the sixth with two strikeouts and a weak comeback to the mound.

He struggled briefly in the top of the seventh inning, walking the first two batters. Benton’s Fortner tried to steal third and ended up scoring when Hunter’s throw sailed into left field.

Miller regrouped and got a pop up back to the mound and fanned the last two batters of the game. The aberrant fourth inning was the only inning in which Miller did not record a strikeout. He finished the game giving up three hits and one earned run, while striking out 12 and walking four