Friday, April 14, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Bear bats battle for sweep at Warriors

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills won a key conference matchup on Wednesday, going on the road and sweeping Little Rock Christian Academy in a 5A/6A-Central doubleheader in Little Rock. Scores were 5-2 and 2-1, but Bears’ coach Denny Tipton had mixed feelings about his squad’s performance.

“I always feel like my team is really ultra competitive,” began Tipton. “I just didn’t get that feeling that we were really that into it. I thought we were early. I was proud of how we battled the best pitcher. We got his count up early, fouled off a lot of tough pitches. I was proud of how they battled at the plate against him. When they took him out, it felt like, to me, we let up a little bit. I don’t think we had very many good at-bats after he left the mound. I don’t like 2-1 games.”

Bennett Shoptaw is the Warriors’ ace. While he held the Bears’ scoreless for three and two-thirds innings, he was taken deep into pitch counts and had to work out of jams in the first and third innings.

A leadoff walk and two Sylvan Hills errors put the Warriors on top 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning. The Bears finally changed that with two outs in the fourth. With nobody on base, Kyle Clayton drew a walk before Spencer Zilkey reached on an error at second base. That little opening was enough for the Bears’ to pounce. Back at the top of the lineup, Michael Coven singled to left field to drive in one run. Zach Douglass then went the other way for an RBI base hit that put Sylvan Hills in front.

Ryan Lumpkin then opened the fifth inning with a leadoff double and took third on a wild pitch. River Hunt drove him in with a base hit, and scored two batters later on a single by Chaz Poppy. After a walk by Clayton and a fly out to center by Zilkey, another infield error, this time off a grounder to short by Coven, led to the Bears’ final run and a 5-1 lead.

LR Christian (13-9, 7-3) scored on a double by Colin Baxley and a single by Trey Harris in the bottom of the seventh inning to set the final margin.

Game two went by in a flash, taking less than 90 minutes to complete. Sylvan Hills scored both of its runs in the second inning. Hunt hit a one-out double to left field and took third on a groundout by Poppy. He scored on a passed ball as Caleb McMunn walked. Another passed ball and a wild pitch got McMunn to third base. Clayton’s sac fly brought him home for the 2-0 lead.

The Bears (22-3, 10-0) only had one more base runner the rest of the game, a walk by Nick Fakouri in the sixth inning, but it was all they needed. The Warriors had many more chances to score than the Bears in game two, but Hunt worked his way out of trouble in the first, second and fourth innings without giving up a run.

Harris hit a one-out double for the home team in the fifth inning, and later scored on a wild pitch.

Anders Nowell hit a one-out double in the sixth, but McMunn came in to get two quick outs, then got a groundout to first and a pair of strikeouts in the seventh to seal the win.