Tuesday, July 09, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Bears win Summer Showdown

Leader sportswriter

In dramatic fashion, the Gwatney Buick GMC Bears of Sylvan Hills closed summer play by winning the seventh annual Little Rock Catholic Summer Showdown tournament with a 6-5 win over the favored Arkansas Express 17-year-olds in the championship game Sunday at UALR’s Curran Conway Park.

Sylvan Hills led 6-4 going into the seventh and final inning. Winning pitcher T.J. Burrow got Express cleanup hitter William Hancock to fly out the first at bat of the inning, but third baseman Nate Alberius hit a bloop single to right field the next at bat.

John Franklin Matros then came to the plate and hit a one-out triple to deep left-centerfield. Alberius scored on the play and Matros represented the tying run at third base. Matt Sherry followed Matros’ at bat with a hard-hit chopper to Burrow.

Burrow looked off Matros before throwing to first base for the second out of the inning. Jack Thomas then came to the plate to pinch hit and early in the at bat Burrow threw a wild pitch that got by catcher Chase Imoff.

It looked as if the title game was going to be knotted up at 6-6 as Matros took off for home, but suddenly the ball bounced back to Burrow who was rushing to cover home plate. Burrow snagged the ball with his glove as it bounced toward him and tagged Matros in the nick of time to seal the showcase tournament championship for the Gwatney Buick GMC Bears.

“I thought, shoot we’re in trouble,” said Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton about the wild pitch, “but T.J. – great hustle. I mean, he competed, went seven (innings). We hadn’t thrown more than three (pitchers) all summer. Being in six games and just being a high-school team, it’s hard on pitching.”

The Arkansas Express team had a significantly higher number of pitchers on its roster, which was the main reason it was favored in Sunday’s championship game, which was the second game of the day for both teams.

“They’re a prospect (team) and they’ve got like 15 pitchers on their roster,” Tipton said. “We were struggling with our pitching because we didn’t have a lot of depth, but at the same time I always take heart over anything. I thought our kids showed a lot of heart and competed and played hard and I’m real proud of them.”

Arkansas Express was the aggressive team at the plate early as it scored three runs in the first inning to take an early lead. Sylvan Hills though got it going in the third inning with six runs scored, thanks in part to five-straight walks to start things off.

Leadoff hitter Reid Fawcett was the first player to get walked, and Burrow, Imoff, Brandon Baioni and Hunter Heslep all followed with walks. Fawcett scored the first run for the Gwatney Buick GMC Bears on a wild pitch by Express pitcher Ty Tice.

Heslep picked up an easy RBI as he walked with the bases loaded. After Heslep’s at bat, designated hitter Charlie Roberts hit a bases-clearing triple to give Sylvan Hills a 5-3 lead. The first out of the inning didn’t come until the next at bat, which was a sacrifice fly to centerfield by Blake Maddox that scored Roberts for all of Sylvan Hills’ runs.

Though the numbers don’t necessarily indicate it, Burrow showed a lot of heart, stamina and mental toughness in the winning effort. He threw all seven innings in the 100-plus degree heat and gave up five runs on as many hits, two walks, and recorded two strikeouts.

The Gwatney Buick GMC Bears outhit the Express team 7-5, and Roberts led the tournament champs with two hits. Burrow, Baioni, Maddox, Marcus Long and Connor Poteet had a hit apiece.

To get to the tournament title game, Sylvan Hills routed the Fayetteville based Rawlings Mud Dogs 11-3 in the semifinal game earlier in the day. Maddox was the star on the mound in that game. He recorded a game-high 11 strikeouts and gave up just two hits.

Burrow, Imoff and Fawcett each had two hits in that game, while Baioni, Roberts and Jacob White had one hit apiece.