Wednesday, July 25, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Bruins in state as two seed

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Bruins took second place in the Area 3 Senior American Legion tournament at Burns Park and advances to the state tournament that begins Thursday at the same place. The Bruins beat Cabot and North Little Rock to advance to the finals to await its challenger from the loser’s bracket. That was again North Little Rock. The Colts needed to beat the Bruins twice on Monday to win the tournament, and did just that, winning game one 9-7 and game two 9-8.

Game one was a back-and-forth affair with four lead changes. Game two saw the Colts blow up for seven runs in the third inning and Sylvan Hills fight its way back to make it a close game.

Missed opportunities was the story in game two. The Bruins left an astonishing 18 runners on base, including leaving the bases loaded in the third, fifth and eighth innings, and leaving two runners stranded in the second, sixth and ninth innings. They left one on base in each of the remaining innings.

“I knew we left a lot on base and we have to do a better job of scoring runs when we have the chance,” Sylvan Hills coach Brandon Eller said. “We did a good job of creating opportunities, but that’s how this game is. Sometimes those opportunities come through and sometimes they don’t. But they did battle back. We were down seven runs and fought back. That’s what this team will do. We’re not dominant in pitching or hitting, but this group will battle.”

Sylvan Hills starting pitcher Jimmy Sandefur was solid for two innings, but ran into some trouble in the third. He faced four batters without recording an out, giving up two singles, a ground rule double and a walk. He left with two runners in scoring position and Conner Eller took the mound. Eller gave up three singles while two errors aided the Colts’ rally and left the Bruins down by seven runs.

They scored four in the bottom of the third on just three hits. North Little Rock pitcher Tyson Tackett began struggling with control, walking Greg Atchison and hitting Eller before giving up a single to Lance Hunter. With the bases loaded, Tackett walked J.D. Miller and was replaced by Wes Freeland. Sylvan Hills’ Dylan Boone then doubled off Freeland to score Miller and make it 7-4.

Hunter Heslep then reached on an error and Blake Maddux singled to load the bases with one out. Cory Jones then hit a line drive to deep centerfield. Heslep, thinking the ball would drop for a hit, was too far off second base and was doubled up to end the inning.

The Bruins tied the game in the fourth. Atchison led off with a single before Eller lined out to center and Hunter struck out. With two outs, Austin Spears, Miller and Boone hit three consecutive doubles to make the score 7-7.

That’s how it stayed until the seventh inning. Eller walked the first two NLR batters, then gave up a two-RBI double to Jack Partlow that gave the Colts a 9-7 lead.

The Bruins answered with one in the bottom of the seventh. Atchison doubled and scored when Eller’s grounder to shortstop resulted in a bad throw to first base. That made the score 9-8 and that’s how the game ended, despite threats by the Bruins in the last two innings.

Heslep, Jones and Atchison got on base with two outs in the eighth, but Eller struck out to end the inning. Miller and Boone reached with two outs in the ninth, but Heslep grounded back to the pitcher to end the game.

The Bruins will face Paragould in the first-round of the state tournament.