Wednesday, March 23, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Solid defense leads Bears to win in CAI

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Bears acted as one of the host teams and got a win in the first round of the Central Arkansas Invitational on Monday at Sherwood Sports Complex. The Bears played clean defense and took advantage of four Russellville errors to take a 4-2 victory over the Cyclones.

“We’re young but we’re very talented,” said Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton. “We’ve played pretty good defense all season. We’re not hitting like I think we’re capable of hitting just yet, but we have some depth at pitching. We’re still growing and still learning, but I think this team has a chance to be pretty good.”

Russellville scored first in the top of the first inning. Ryan Meador hit a one-out single to right field and Carter Thessing walked. After a sacrifice bunt, Caleb Hartgen singled to left to score Meador.

Sylvan Hills pitcher Nick Fakouri only allowed one base runner over the next four innings and the score stayed 1-0 until the bottom of the fourth.

The Bears got a two-out double from Mackenzie Seats in the first inning, but he was their only base runner until the fourth. That’s when Zach Douglas drew a leadoff walk. Seats followed with a single and an error on a fielder’s choice grounder by Fakouri left everyone safe and the bases loaded.

Carson Sanders popped up to second base for the first out, but River Hunt singled to score Douglas and tie the game. The Bears seemed poised for a big inning, but the next two batters struck out to leave the bases loaded.

The Bears took the lead in the bottom of the fifth. Michael Coven reached on an error at shortstop to start the inning, and Ryan Lumpkin singled to left field. Douglas then hit a grounder to third, where an errant throw to first allowed Coven to score and left runners safe and in scoring position. Seats then got his third base hit of the game, scoring Lumpkin and giving the Bears a 3-1 lead. A pitch hit Sanders with one out, but Sylvan Hills again left the bases loaded when Hunt and JoJo Craft hit back-to-back pop ups.

“We really blew a couple chances to blow the game wide open,” Tipton said. “We’ve got to have better at-bats with runners on base.”

Russellville finally started touching Fakouri in the sixth, getting one run off three-straight base hits at the top of the lineup. But Craft took the mound and got three-straight outs to end Russellville’s rally and preserve a 3-2 lead.

The Bears added the game’s final run in the bottom of the sixth. Coven hit a one-out single and moved to third when a pickoff throw got past the Russellville first baseman. He then scored on a deep fly ball to center field by Lumpkin.

Seats went 3 for 3 with a double and two RBIs. Coven had two hits as the Bears totaled seven base hits.