Tuesday, July 16, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> NLR falls again to Paragould

Leader sportswriter

Earlier this month, North Little Rock’s senior American Legion team lost to Paragould on its way to the Southwest Illinois Firecracker showcase tournament in Alton, Ill., and on Saturday, the 7-Up team beat the Colts for the second time in July with a close 6-4 win, this time at Burns Park.

Paragould (24-11) jumped on Colts starting pitcher Nick Cleveland early and held a 2-0 lead after the first inning. The 7-Up team scored again in the top of the second before North Little Rock (27-4) got on the board.

Dylan Huckaby reached on an error at shortstop to lead off the bottom of the second. Connor Eller then walked, but catcher Gunner Allen struck out swinging the next at bat. Nine-hole hitter Will Hopkins walked the following at bat to load the bases for leadoff hitter L.J. Wallace.

Wallace hit into a 6-4 fielder’s choice, but Huckaby scored on the play to cut Paragould’s lead to 3-1. However, Paragould scored three more runs in the bottom of the third to push its lead to 6-1.

“The bottom line is I don’t want to take anything away from those guys,” said North Little Rock coach Robert Hopkins of Paragould. “They’re a very good baseball team. I threw a kid today I thought would compete with them – Cleveland. In the first inning he said his back was hurting and they hit him around pretty good and the next inning they hit him around pretty good too.”

Wallace came in to relieve Cleveland in the top of the third after Cleveland gave up back-to-back singles to start the inning. Wallace threw the rest of the game and gave up three runs on seven hits, but the Colts’ defense committed four errors with Wallace on the hill.

“L.J., who I’ve only thrown the first week of the season at Texarkana, came in and he did a great job today,” Hopkins said. “He kept us in the game and gave us a chance. Our defense was not very good. In fact, it was awful. Our base running wasn’t very good today and consequently we dug a big hole and we couldn’t get out of it.”

North Little Rock scored its second run in the fourth and two more in the fifth to set the final score.

Wallace led off the fourth with a ground-rule double over the fence in right field. He stole third base before scoring on a wild pitch later in the inning.

In the fifth, Huckaby doubled to deep left-centerfield to get on base and two batters later Hopkins walked. With two outs, Wallace hit a stand-up triple off the top of the fence in right-centerfield to score Huckaby and Hopkins to cut Paragould’s lead to 6-4.

Paragould outhit the Colts 13-9. Wallace led the way offensively for North Little Rock.

He was 3 for 3 and a home run shy of the cycle. He also had three RBIs and four stolen bases. Huckaby and Alex Gosser each went 2 for 3 at the plate, while J.D. Miller and Jack Partlow had one hit apiece.

The Colts ended their regular season last night with a game against the Little Rock Express at UALR’s Curran Conway Park.

On Friday, North Little Rock will begin play in the Senior Zone 3 Tournament at Burns Park, and Hopkins is confident his team will be ready to play its best ball by then.

“I’ve got no complaints,” Hopkins said. “We just didn’t play very good today and that’s what happens, but we’ll be ready to go. We’ll be ready to go for Zone.”