Wednesday, July 04, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Bruins overcome Gwatney

Leader sportswriter

Gwatney Chevrolet jumped out to a comfortable lead early against Sylvan Hills in the final game of the Jacksonville American Legion Classic tournament, but the Bruins rallied late and took over the game in the sixth inning on their way to an 8-5 win Sunday at Jacksonville’s Dupree Park.

Errors plagued the Bruins in the first inning, as three infield miscues and a timely hit led to a quick 4-0 lead for Jacksonville. Clean-up hitter Austin Allen drove in the first run for Gwatney with an RBI-double down the left baseline that allowed Alex Tucker to score with ease after he reached base earlier in the inning on a fielder’s choice at second base.

Catcher Greg Jones followed with a hard-hit grounder to shortstop, but the routine throw to first was off the mark and Jesse Harbin scored the second run for Gwatney as a result.

James McCranie then came to the plate and hit another grounder to the same spot, and once again the throw was off, this time in the dirt.

First baseman Robert Brock was unable to make the difficult pick-play, and Allen was able to score on the passed ball at first. Jones scored Jacksonville’s fourth run of the inning on a sacrifice fly to right field from Blake Perry.

The next two innings were scoreless, but Jacksonville added another run in the top of the fourth when Arvie Crudup scored from third base on a passed ball at home. Trailing 5-0 midway through the fourth inning, Sylvan Hills finally found some offense and scored four runs to cut Gwatney’s lead to one.

Hunter Heslep started things off for the Bruins with an RBI-single to right-center field that sent Connor Eller across home plate for Sylvan Hills’ first run of the game. Heslep scored the second run for the Bruins on a balk with the bases loaded and two outs.

Right fielder J.D. Miller then reached base on an E5.

The ground ball was fielded cleanly, but the throw to first was off and runs three and four scored as a result.

After a rough first inning where Sylvan Hills found itself in a hole, Bruins coach Matthew Presson was happy to see the way the team rallied its way back into the game.

“We wanted to keep them positive after that first inning,” said Presson of the Bruins. “We wanted them to forget about that and start over, and just keep working hard and doing what they had to do.”

The fifth inning was scoreless, but in the sixth, Sylvan Hills took its first lead of the game with another four-run inning. With one out and two runners on base, Miller singled up the middle and drove in both runners to give the Bruins a one-run lead.

Pitcher Lance Hunter then walked, and two batters later, Connor Eller walked with the bases loaded. Miller scored on Eller’s walk and Hunter scored the final run of the game from third base on a ground ball by Blake Holmes.

Hunter picked up the win for Sylvan Hills after a one-two-three inning in the top of the seventh. Hunter struck out three and walked just one batter in the complete game performance.

“Pitching-wise Lance (Hunter) pitched a great game,” Presson said. “In that first inning he threw around five or six outs. After that the defense picked him up and made plays. Then we came back with the bats and did what we needed to do.”

Conway won the pool-style tournament as the only team to go unbeaten (3-0). Sylvan Hills finished second (2-1), Sheridan third (2-1), Jacksonville fourth (1-2), Benton fifth (1-2) and Pine Bluff sixth (0-3). Miller was the only player on either team with multiple hits, with two singles and two RBI’s.