Tuesday, May 09, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills wins 5A-Central

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Bears breezed through the 5A-Central Conference tournament last week in Sherwood, winning its three games by a combined score of 32-1, and closing it out with an 8-1 victory over Pulaski Academy on Friday. That win gave the Bears the No. 1 seed from the 5A-Central going into this week’s Class 5A state tournament, that Sylvan Hills will also host at the Sherwood Sports Complex.

Nick Fakouri, who was one of the key starters on last year’s state runner-up team, pitched in a varsity game for the first time this season due to a shoulder injury. He threw five innings, including four innings of one-hit ball before a single in the fifth inning finished off the Bruins’ offensive output.

He finished with four strikeouts and four walks, allowed one unearned run and left the game after issuing a walk to start the sixth inning.

“We’ve been trying to get him ready for this,” said Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton of Fakouri. “He could’ve thrown a little earlier. He threw in a JV game last week. We had saved him up until tournament time, and it’s good to have him back.”

Pulaski Academy pitcher Layne Hatcher forced a lot of pop-ups early, but Ryan Lumpkin hit a leadoff double in the top of the second inning. It came to nothing, however. That wasn’t the case in the third.

Kyle Clayton got the Bears’ second base hit of the game, a leadoff single to left-center field. He stole second base, and then scored on a double by leadoff hitter Michael Coven to put the host team up 1-0. Coven later scored when Gavin Glasgow couldn’t handle Fakouri’s shot to third base, making the score 2-0.

PA got its unearned run in the top of the fourth on a base hit, two walks and an E4. Sylvan Hills answered with four runs in the bottom half of the same frame.

It started with a sole home run by River Hunt when he crushed a 2-0 pitch over the wall in left field. Chaz Poppy followed with a single and Caleb McMunn reached on an error.

Two passed balls scored Poppy and moved McMunn all the way to third. Clayton then hit an RBI single that made the score 5-0. Poppy later scored on a sacrifice grounder by Coven for the 6-1 lead.

The Bears set the final margin in the bottom of the sixth. With one out, McMunn and Clayton were hit consecutively. Both scored on Pulaski Academy’s fourth error of the game.

Sylvan Hills (29-6) also committed three errors, and it was the only deficiency the entire week.

“I don’t like that we did make some errors tonight,” Tipton said. “Typically for us, the key is to play good defense. We’re going to battle at the plate. So from that standpoint, I don’t like the mistakes, but at the same time, I wouldn’t trade the results.”

With the state tournament looming and the Bears hosting it, the head Bear feels good about how his team played in the tournament play leading into the big one.

“I really, truly have felt that they’ve been ready to play the tournament,” Tipton said of his squad. “The whole deal with this blended conference, it really didn’t matter. Just from the standpoint of the competitive nature and coming out every night, I think they’ve been waiting for this time. I think they’re ready to play.

“Now we could get beat. In the game of baseball, you can get some breaks. But I do like how we’re playing. We’re wanting to compete. We’re playing it our place and hopefully that’ll help.”

Sylvan Hills had six base hits against PA, with Clayton’s 2 for 2 outing leading the way. He added an RBI and scored three runs.

The Bears will face the four seed from the 5A-South, Hot Springs Lakeside (17-9). That game is scheduled to open the tournament at 10 a.m.

The Bruins (21-14) will play South three seed White Hall (21-9) at 5:30 p.m.