Friday, April 17, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Hillside defeats, no-hits Falcons

Leader sportswriter

Sylvan Hills’ baseball team earned a 5A-Central doubleheader sweep over North Pulaski on Tuesday at the Mills University Studies baseball field, beating the Falcons 14-2 in the first game, and 8-0 in the nightcap with senior pitcher Marcus Long throwing a no-hitter.

Tuesday’s game was originally scheduled to be played in Jacksonville, but wet conditions at Dupree Park and at the Sherwood Sports Complex resulted in the game being moved to Mills’ field in Little Rock, since it was available that day.

In game one, the Bears (12-7, 6-2) scored four quick runs in the first inning before the Falcons (8-6, 4-4) scored a run in the bottom of the second to make it a 4-1 game. Sylvan Hills added seven runs to its side of the board in the top of the third before scoring again in the fourth to push its lead to 12-1.

The Bears scored their final two runs in the top of the fifth before North Pulaski set the final score in the bottom half of the inning with a run scored. The game ended after the fifth because of the sportsmanship rule.

The second game was much more competitive, at least in the first three innings of play. Sylvan Hills scored a run in the bottom of the first inning to lead 1-0, but neither team scored again until the fourth inning.

Leadoff hitter Lukas Burrow led off the bottom of the first with a single to right-center field. He stole second and third base before scoring two batters later on a sacrifice fly to left center by Blake Maddox, which gave the Bears their 1-0 cushion.

Long kept North Pulaski’s bats silent, and the Bears were able to build on their lead in the fourth. Sylvan Hills scored four runs in that inning to take a 5-0 lead.

Mackenzie Seats singled to left field to get that rally started, and catcher Nick Fakouri walked the next at-bat. Kyle Clayton came in to run for Fakouri, and with runners at first and second with no outs, Hunter Heslep laid down a sacrifice bunt.

As Heslep ran to first, NP starting pitcher Chris Penn tried to get Seats out at third base, but the throw was off the mark, and Seats scored as a result to put the Bears up 2-0.

JoJo Craft was next up for Sylvan Hills, and he delivered a two-RBI double to deep center field that drove in Clayton and Heslep. Craft scored the final run of the inning three batters later on a dropped fly ball at shortstop off the bat of Connor Beaching. That made the score 5-0 Bears.

The score remained 5-0 until the bottom of the sixth. Craft walked with two outs in the inning. He advanced to second base on a wild pitch before teammate Carson Sanders drove him in with a single to the left-field gap.

With Burrow at the plate, Sanders stole second base, then stole third and scored on the same play thanks to an errant throw to third. Sanders’ run made it 7-0 Bears. Burrow eventually walked during his at-bat. He stole second base before stealing third and home on a pair of passed balls, which set the final score of game two.

Long retired the side in the top of the seventh to secure the no-hitter, and the conference sweep over the Falcons.

“In the first game, I thought we hit the ball real hard,” said Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton. “In this game, we had a few more pop-ups than what I like. But Marcus did pitch a great game. He threw a no-hitter.

“We’re coming off four games where we’ve made 24 errors in four games. So we’ve had a little stretch where we’ve had trouble fielding the ball and catching the ball and throwing the ball. In the first game we had one error, so I was really proud of that.”

The Bears had zero errors in game two, while the Falcons had four errors in each game. North Pulaski was coming off of a very successful weekend where it won five games, including the Jaelyn Russell Memorial Tournament at Dupree Park on Saturday. Unfortunately for the Falcons, things didn’t go as well Tuesday.

“Once we started throwing the ball around the infield and making a few errors, and leaving outs on the field, it seemed like all of the momentum went away – hitting and everything,” said North Pulaski coach Michael Dean.

“You’ve got to give them (Sylvan Hills) credit. They’re well-coached. They’ve got a good team and solid baseball players, and you can’t make mistakes when you play a team like Sylvan Hills.

“You have games like that. I hate that it’s against a conference rival, Sylvan Hills. We’ve obviously played better than that, but we’ll bounce back.”

Long finished game two on the mound with 11 strikeouts and just three walks allowed. Heslep earned the win on the hill in game one. He threw all five innings, finished with four strikeouts, and gave up three walks, four hits and only one earned run.

Sylvan Hills outhit NP 11-4 in game one, and the Bears totaled six hits in game two.

Craft, Seats and Maddox led the Bears with two hits each in game one, while five different Bears had one hit apiece – the highlight of which was a grand slam by Beaching that came with one out in the top of the third.

For North Pulaski, Chris Hildreth led the offense in game one, going 2 for 2 with a single, double and run scored. Myles Bush and Braxton McKinney each had one hit for the Falcons in that game.

In game two, Burrow, Seats, Fakouri, Heslep, Craft and Sanders accounted for the Bears’ six hits.