Tuesday, March 19, 2013

SPORT STORY >> Bears upend touted Tigers

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Bears got a confidence-boosting 4-2 win over class 7A Little Rock Central on Friday at Sherwood Sports Complex. The Tigers are among those considered serious contenders for the class 7A state championship, and have looked the part so far this season. But Sylvan Hills (4-4) put them in a hole at the very beginning with two runs in the first, and held them off with good pitching and defense for seven innings.

“This is a good win for us,” Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton said. “We’re so young this year I didn’t expect us to be great right from the start. It’s going to take us a little while but there’s talent on this team. I like this group and I think they have a chance to end up being pretty good.”

Sylvan Hills starting pitcher Connor Poteet had an excellent outing. He pitched five innings and gave up just two hits and one earned run. He hit three batters and left the game after walking the leadoff hitter in the top of the sixth inning. T.J. Burrows came in from left field and inherited a 2-1 lead with a runner on and no outs after Poteet walked Central’s Daniel Massiner. Walter Bass sacrificed him to second base and he moved to third on a groundout. He finally scored on a passed ball that tied the game and ruined Poteet’s chance to be the winning pitcher.

Central (8-2) appeared to have the momentum after tying the game, but Sylvan Hills answered the Tigers’ salvo with a two-out, two-run rally that set the final margin. Chase Imoff walked with two outs. He then scored when J.D. Miller’s line drive to left field was mishandled. Poteet then hit a line-drive double down the third-base line that scored Miller easily and gave the Bears a 4-2 lead.

Central threatened in the top of the seventh when leadoff hitter Noah Burks singled to left field with one out. Two-hole hitter Joey Abraham and Burrows battled for nine pitches on the next at bat, with Burrows winning the duel by forcing Abraham to pop up to second base for the second out.

Three-hole hitter Kevin Garner did not take as long. Burrows struck him out in three pitches without a single swing of the bat to end the game and seal his relief victory on the mound.

“We got good pitching today from both our guys,” Tipton said. “They didn’t throw either of their two DI guys, but we didn’t throw our first two either. Connor pitched a great game and T.J. came in and finished it off for us. We need to get our bats going a lot more, but I think that’ll come.”

Sylvan Hills’ first two batters scored in the bottom of the second inning. Burrows and Charlie Roberts drew back-to-back walks before Imoff doubled to left field to drive both runners in. Those were the only two runs through four innings of play. Central got one back in the top of the fifth when Poteet hit nine-hole hitter Jonathan Thompson with one out. He then gave up a single to left field, where Burrows failed to scoop up the rolling ball, allowing Thompson to score all the way from first base.

Tiger pitcher Alex Stillwell rebounded from the rocky start and fanned the first two Sylvan Hills batters in the bottom of the fifth. He then got Blake Maddox to bloop one back to the mound for an easy third out of a quick bottom half of the sixth inning.

That set the stage for Central’s tying run in the sixth.

The Bears will be back in action on Thursday in the Central Arkansas Invitational. The CAI is a 16-team, double-elimination tournament in Little Rock that is being held at four different sites. The Bears open at 2:30 p.m. at Burns Park against Springdale Har-Ber. Other first-round games include Little Rock Catholic taking on Cabot at noon Thursday at Lamar Porter Field. Springfield, Kickapoo plays Bentonville at 2:30 p.m. at Lamar Porter Field as well. Little Rock Central will host Russellville at Central High, followed by El Dorado taking on Van Buren. At Benton High School, the Panthers will play Alma at noon and Pulaski Academy will take on Southmoore High at 2:30. North Little Rock plays the first game at Burns Park at noon against Arkadelphia.