Tuesday, April 19, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Bears triumph over NLR

Leader sports editor

5A-Central leader Sylvan Hills had last week off from conference play, and replaced its regularly scheduled doubleheader against North Pulaski with a pair of wins over 7A-East teams. On Friday, the Bears hammered out a 13-3 win over Little Rock Central before beating North Little Rock 1-0 in nine innings on Saturday at Sherwood Sports Complex.

On Monday of this week, the Bears won a 21-run affair, 14-7 on the road at Sheridan.

Saturday’s game featured all the intensity expected from the old rivalry game. Sylvan Hills had just four hits in regulation while Sylvan Hills pitcher River Hunt threw a two-hitter over eight innings.

The Bears got two of their hits in the sixth inning but missed a prime opportunity to take the lead. Michael Coven hit a leadoff double and JoJo Craft followed with a single to put runners at second and third with no outs.

Mackenzie Seats struck out and Nick Fakouri and Ryan Lumpkin popped up in the infield to waste the opportunity. Carson Sanders hit a leadoff double in the seventh but that was also followed by a strikeout and two infield pop-ups.

In the bottom of the ninth, Fakouri hit a leadoff single to left and was replaced by courtesy runner Cameron Flippo. Lumpkin put down a sacrifice bunt, but North Little Rock bobbled it and everyone was safe. Sanders bunted the runners to second and third and Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton called for the squeeze to get the game-winning run.

Flippo beat the throw, but North Little Rock catcher Blaine Miller blocked Flippo’s slide by stepping on his inside leg. Flippo was called out, which drew protest from Tipton, but the call didn’t change.

“The rule is, a runner must have a path to the plate,” said Tipton. “He didn’t just sit down and block the plate, but the way he did it could’ve been ruled that he didn’t leave the runner a path to the plate. I’ve never run up there in protest and have an umpire say, ‘you know, you’re right’. So I didn’t expect to get the call. But in a situation like that, with it being the game-winning run, you have to say something.”

The whole controversy went away on the very next at-bat.

Kyle Clayton pinch hit for Bryce Allen and hit a blooper in the gap between shortstop, left field and center field. All three fielder’s converged on the ball and all three ran into each other, letting the ball drop and allowing Lumpkin to score the game winner.

On Monday, Sylvan Hills fell behind 4-0 in the first inning to the Yellowjackets. They took the lead with five runs in the top of the third, but gave up two in the bottom half of the same inning to fall behind again. A five-spot in the top of the fourth gave the Bears the lead for good. After giving up a run in the bottom of the fourth, Sylvan Hill scored four more in the top of the sixth to set the final margin.

The Bears (18-4, 6-0) got 17 base hits, walked five times and had four batters hit by pitches.

Craft went 1 for 2 with a triple in the fourth inning. He was hit twice and walked once. Seats went 2 for 3 with a double and was hit once. Fakouri went 3 for 5. Lumpkin went 3 for 4 with two doubles. Sanders went 2 for 3 and walked twice. Allen went 0 for 1, but walked twice, was hit once and scored three runs. Hunt led the team offensively, going 4 for 5 with two doubles.

Against Central last Friday, Sylvan Hills took advantage of the Tigers’ inability to throw strikes to score seven runs in the first inning on one base hit.

The first time through the batting order, Seats recorded the only out, a line drive right to shortstop.

The rest of the lineup reached base on four walks, two hit batters and two errors. Coven doubled to clear the bases on his second at-bat to make it 7-0.

Fakouri homered to lead off the second inning. Doubles by Allen and Coven were followed by a Craft triple in the third. In the sixth, Craft was hit by pitch, Seats doubled and Fakouri drove in both runners with a single to left.

Central scored one in the third and two in the fifth.

Coven and Fakouri each got two base hits to lead the Bears in that win.

Sylvan Hills is off until next Tuesday when it hosts Beebe in a big 5A-Central doubleheader.