Monday, March 30, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Bears can't get that third out

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Bears dropped their second-straight game on Thursday to another traditional powerhouse, falling 9-1 to Benton in the first round of the Central Arkansas Invitational at Benton High School. The Panthers only out-hit the Bears 9-6, but got several timely hits that led to seven two-out runs.

“We just couldn’t get that third out,” said Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton. “That’s all it boils down to. They made plays and we didn’t make the plays.”

Sylvan Hills scored its lone run in the first inning on a one-out double by Blake Maddox, followed by a single by Hunter Heslep that drove in Maddox. Heslep was later called out on a controversial fielder’s choice by James Franco. It proved to be Sylvan Hills’ last serious threat until the fifth inning.

Benton pitcher Ryan Rickford gave up no hits and one walk over the next three innings before the Bears got two on base with one out in the fifth. Nick Fakhouri got a leadoff single and Lukas Burrow followed with a one-out single that put runners on the corners with the top of the lineup coming to the plate, but Mackenzie Seats and Maddox each flew out to end the threat.

Franco, who hit the ball hard every at-bat, finally found a gap in the sixth inning and moved into scoring position on an error off the bat of Ryan Lumpkin. But another pop-up to first base got Rickford out of the jam.

Benton went to bat in the bottom of the sixth with a 6-1 lead, and scored three runs on two base hits to end the game on the tournament’s mercy rule of eight runs after five innings. All three runs were with two outs.

Sylvan Hills relief pitcher Carson Sanders walked one and hit one in the inning. Benton also got the benefit of an error at shortstop and scored one run on a wild pitch.

Benton’s three and four hitters Colten Nix and Brinson Williams combined for more than half of the team’s base hits, while six-hole hitter Drew Dyer went 2 for 4 with a huge home run to right field in the third inning.

Benton’s first two-out run came in the first inning when Colten Nix hit a two-out solo home run. All three Panther runs in the second inning came with two outs, including a two-RBI triple by Chase Nix and an RBI single by Colten Nix.

Dyer’s solo shot in the third came with one out and Kyler Nitchske scored on a passed ball with one out in the fifth to make it 6-1.

Maddox went five innings on the mound, giving up seven hits and six earned runs while striking out five and walking four. Rickford threw six innings, giving up one earned run while fanning four and walking none.

The Bears, 6-2, added a win Friday afternoon, beating Watson Chapel 4-0 at Benton. Hunter Heslep went the distance on the mound for the shutout. The win earned Sylvan Hills another game at 8:30 p.m. Friday after deadlines. Look for details of that game and the rest of the tournament in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.