Tuesday, May 14, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Rams put end to season for Sylvan Hills

Leader sportswriter

Friday’s matchup between Sylvan Hills and Paragould was neck-and-neck after five innings of play, but a huge sixth inning by the Lady Rams ended the Lady Bears’ season as they fell 12-5 in the quarterfinal round of the class 5A state softball tournament at Hope.

Junior pitcher Michelle Sorensen started on the mound for the Lady Bears and held the Lady Rams scoreless until the fourth inning when they scored the first run of the game. Sylvan Hills responded with two runs to take a 2-1 lead after four.

Callie Cavender was hit by a pitch to start the inning and stole second base before Maddison Shelton reached on an error. Cavender scored on the Lady Rams’ error, and Shelton scored the go-ahead run on a base hit by Jenna Hoogeveen.

Sorensen had some control problems the next inning, and as a result, Paragould loaded the bases. Tyra Williams came in to relieve Sorensen and pitched her way out of the jam, but the next inning was when the Lady Rams took control.

With two runners on base, freshman Braxton Burnside was at the plate with a full count and hit a clutch three-run home run which gave Paragould a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

“That’s where things began was with that home run shot,” said Lady Bears coach Justine Gladden. “After that, number one, my team was in shock that it happened. Then the hitting was contagious. After one hit they all started hitting.

“They forced us to play defense, which we hadn’t had to play much of the past few days. They started making us play defense and we had a few errors here and there. Suddenly it went from 2-1 to 9-2. It got worse from there.”

By the time the bottom of the seventh came around, Sylvan Hills, the No. 1 seed from the Central, trailed by a commanding 12-3 deficit.

Junior centerfielder Jordie Flippo started the inning with a double to left centerfield, and stole second and third base before scoring on a sacrifice by Williams.

Cavender then reached base with her second hit of the game, and later scored on a base hit by senior shortstop Jeana Canady, which set the final score. Even though the ending didn’t turn out in Sylvan Hills’ favor, Gladden was at least proud of the way her team finished.

“The only cool thing that really shocked me was when they started beating us I figured my team was going to shut down and give up, but they didn’t,” Gladden said. “They just kept fighting and trying to get that out. A couple of bad calls were made by the umpires and they still tried to battle back. You could tell they really wanted it. It was just one bad inning.”

Ashley Broadway and Cavender led the Lady Bears with two hits each, while Flippo, Canady and Hoogeveen had a hit apiece. It was the final game for Canady, the lone senior on the team.

Sylvan Hills finished the season 24-7 overall and unbeaten in 5A Central Conference play with a perfect 12-0 record. With all but one starter returning (Canady), the Lady Bears will be in good position to make another run at a conference title next spring.

For Gladden, her first year as the Lady Bears coach was nothing less than stellar.

“It was definitely a blast,” Gladden said. “They were really fun to work with. At times were they hard-headed, yes, they’re women, they’re going to be hard-headed. But I couldn’t have picked a better team to start with at Sylvan Hills. They were fun. They were coachable.

“We of course had our ups and downs, but it didn’t matter, because I always told them at the end of the day that I love them, because I do. I wouldn’t change anything that happened. I loved every minute of it.”