Monday, June 03, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Colts pound Vipers

Leader sportswriter

Stellar pitching and timely hitting led to another dominant win for the unbeaten North Little Rock Colts senior American Legion team as they routed the Little Rock Vipers 9-0 on Wednesday at Burns Park.

Former Sylvan Hills’ standout pitcher Connor Eller got the win on the mound for North Little Rock (4-0). He threw all seven innings and recorded 12 strikeouts to just two walks, and gave up four hits, two of which came in the first inning.

“I’m very pleased and not surprised with the team that I’ve got,” said North Little Rock coach Robert Hopkins. “What you saw tonight, we’ve played four games and all four games have been exactly that way. We started off slow, and about the third inning the bats came alive.”

Little Rock’s only real threat to score came in the first inning as they left two runners stranded at first and second base. Neither team could build any offensive momentum until the third inning when North Little Rock scored two runs.

Will Hopkins, the Colts’ nine-hole hitter, walked to start the inning. He stole second base before L.J. Wallace drove him in with a stand-up double to the wall in left-centerfield. The fleet-footed Wallace scored the next at bat on a line-drive single to centerfield by right fielder J.D. Miller, which put the Colts ahead 2-0 heading into the fourth inning.

It was that inning when the Colts’ bats really came alive. North Little Rock scored the rest of its runs in that time, and scored six before the Vipers could record an out. Landon Hearnes started things off with a stand-up triple to centerfield, thanks to an ill-advised dive by Vipers’ centerfielder Calvin Wilbon.

He scored two-batters later on a single up the middle by third baseman Nick Cleveland. Dylan Huckaby, who was hit by a pitch after Hearnes’ triple, scored the fourth run of the game on a single by Gunner Allen.

Hopkins then came to the plate and laid down a well-executed bunt to the left side of the infield. Vipers’ pitcher Jared Shepard fielded the ball cleanly, but instead of going for the sure out at first base, he threw the ball to third and the throw was far enough off the mark that third baseman Daniel Massiuer had to come off the bag, and as a result, all base runners were safe.

Colts’ leadoff hitter Justin Weigle then came to the plate with the bases loaded and hit a routine ground ball to first base. However, the throw home for the force out was way off, and as the ball rolled to the backstop, Cleveland and Allen scored to put NLR up 6-0. 

Wallace followed with a two-RBI single to centerfield. Hopkins and Weigle scored on the play. Then Miller came to the plate and advanced Wallace to third base with a single to the left-field gap, and Wallace scored the next at bat on a sacrifice fly to left field by cleanup hitter Dylan Boone, which set the final score. Boone’s sacrifice was the first out of the inning.

“We played well there at the end I thought,” Hopkins said. “Back in 2005, I had Drew Smyly and several others that went on to play Division I baseball. That was probably the most talent-laden team I had. I was at Maumelle at the time. But here at North Little Rock I’ve had some good teams.

“You know, these guys have got to play well for a whole season. We won the Zone (Conference) for the past two years and I expect that we’ll compete for that this year, but as I told them at the start of the year, I’m just going to let them play.”

Miller led all batters with three hits. Wallace finished with two. Hearnes, Cleveland and Allen had a hit apiece.