Saturday, May 10, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> NP Falcons battle hard with Bears

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills found itself in a tussle with rival North Pulaski in the 5A-Central finale for both teams on Tuesday. The Bears trailed 2-0 after two innings but put together a six-run third to take a 6-2 victory.

North Pulaski coach Michael Dean called it, “the best game we’ve played all year.” Falcon freshman Caleb McMunn started on the mound and had the Bears off balance in all but the third inning. Jordan Walter threw the last four innings of shutout ball for North Pulaski.

The Falcons took the lead in the top of the second inning after a leadoff walk and a base hit by Hunter McPherson was followed by an error at second base. They added another run in the top of the third when Sylvan Hills flubbed a grounder to shortstop to start the top of the third inning. Fred Thomas doubled two batters later to drive in Walter for the two-run lead.

But McMunn began struggling to find the strike zone in the third inning and issued four walks. The Falcons’ defense also committed two errors and the Bears picked up three base hits. The frame started with leadoff hitter Chase Imhoff reaching second base on an error in left field. After an out, an error at first base scored Imhoff and left Jacob White safe at second. McMunn walked Blake Maddox and Hunter Heslep to load the bases and Charlie Roberts drove in two runs with a single to left.

McMunn walked Reid Fawcett to load them again, then walked Connor Poteet to drive in a third run and put the Bears on top for the first time in the game. Nine-hole hitter Brandon Baioni cleared the bases with a three-RBI double that made it 6-2.

The Bears loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth, but Walter got Fawcett to pop up to first base to get out of the jam.

North Pulaski got two on in the fifth inning on base hits by Christopher Penn and McMunn, but weren’t able to push any more runs across the plate.

Despite the losses, Dean was pleased with how his team closed what’s been a trying season with rainouts and difficulty getting practices in. His team lost in similar fashion to Lonoke on Monday, leading 8-5 until the Jackrabbits’ last at-bat.

“I’m so proud of our guys,” Dean said. “We could’ve shut it down after that heartbreaking loss to Lonoke the night before. But our guys showed up and almost pulled off an upset. We played our hearts out.”

North Pulaski was in business with runners on in two other innings, but got thrown out at the plate twice. Dean took responsibility for those outs and the loss.

“That first game was on me,” Dean said. “I sent a couple kids home when we had the lead that I probably wouldn’t have any other time. But when you have a rival on the ropes, you look for a knockout. It just didn’t work out for us.”

McPherson went 2 for 3 at the plate to lead the Falcons, who had six total base hits.

Sylvan Hills picked up seven hits. Maddox went 2 for 2 with a double and two walks. Imhoff went 2 for 4 with a double.

The Bears won game two 13-1 and finish conference play 10-4 and tied for second place with Pulaski Academy. They will get the No. 4 seed in the state tournament next week at Jacksonville. Jacksonville and Little Rock Christian Academy tied for first place at 12-2 and the Warriors will get the top seed at state.