Tuesday, May 24, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Bear bats hibernate as Magnolia blooms

Leader sportswriter

FAYETTEVILLE – Sylvan Hills outhit Magnolia in the Class 5A state championship game Saturday afternoon at Baum Stadium, but the Bears couldn’t get the timely hits when they needed them, and the Panthers scored two runs in the fourth inning and one each in the fifth and seventh to win 4-1.

Sylvan Hills finished the game with eight hits to Magnolia’s six, but the Bears (28-7) left nine runners on base while the Panthers (22-6) left six stranded.

“That’s what I told them,” said Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton. “We didn’t get hits at the right time and they got the hits back to back. It seemed like every inning we had guys in scoring position. We just didn’t get the hit.”

The game was scoreless after an inning of play, and Sylvan Hills pushed its only run across the plate in the bottom of the second. Five- and six-hole hitters Ryan Lumpkin and Carson Sanders each reached base to start the bottom of the second. Lumpkin reached on an infield hit to shortstop and advanced to second base on the same play because of an errant throw to first.

Sanders then bunted down the third base line, but the sacrifice turned into a single as Magnolia failed to retrieve the ball in time. Panther winning pitcher Matt Goodheart struck out the next batter he faced, but Sylvan Hills designated hitter Kyle Clayton followed with a 4-3 groundout that drove in Lumpkin for a 1-0 Bear lead.

The game stayed 1-0 after three, but the Panthers’ two runs in the top of the fourth gave them the lead for good. Magnolia three-hole hitter Parker Ribble led off the inning with an infield single to shortstop and cleanup hitter Caleb Ward walked the next at-bat.

First baseman Thomas Prince laid a sacrifice bunt down the third base line to advance the runners, and catcher Dayton Dickson drove both runs in with a one-out single to left field, giving Magnolia a 2-1 lead.

Sylvan Hills left two on in the bottom half of the inning, and the Panthers added their next run in the top of the fifth. Magnolia loaded the bases to start the inning. It did so with a leadoff single by eight-hole hitter Brooks Lynch and a pair of fielder’s choice bunts by Alex Fogo and Goodheart.

Sylvan Hills tried to get the lead runner out on both bunts, but Lynch was safe on each play. With no outs, two-hole hitter Jay French hit into a 4-3 double play, but the contact allowed Lynch to score from third and increase Magnolia’s lead to 3-1. Bears’ relief pitcher Mackenzie Seats then struck out Ribble to get out of the jam.

After a scoreless sixth, Magnolia added its insurance run in the top of the seventh. Lynch led off the inning with a single to center field, and advanced to second on a 5-3 groundout the following at-bat. Tipton then chose to intentionally walked leadoff hitter Goodheart to put runners at first and second, and French singled to right field to drive in Lynch.

The final scoring play was a close one. Catcher Nick Fakouri, who started the game on the mound, made the catch from right fielder River Hunt and made the tag as Lynch raced by, but the ball came out of Fakouri’s glove.

It looked as if Lynch may have missed the plate as he slid wide to try and avoid the tag, so Fakouri retrieved the ball and tagged him again. The home plate umpire called Lynch safe, ruling he touched the plate on the wide slide.

Tipton vehemently protested the call to the home plate umpire and was ejected shortly after.

“I thought he went wide trying to miss the tag,” Tipton said. “I didn’t think he touched the base at home plate. So at a certain point, you know, I’ve got to fight for my kids.”

Although that play didn’t work out in the Bears’ favor, their inability to get the timely hit is what hindered them most on Saturday.

“We can’t make excuses,” Tipton said. “We didn’t get the hit. We had chances. When it comes back down to it we’ve got to get the hits when they count.”

Goodheart threw all seven innings for Magnolia. He finished with five strikeouts and one walk while giving up the Bears’ eight hits. Fakouri pitched the first 3 1/3 innings for Sylvan Hills, finishing with four strikeouts, three hits allowed, two walks and two earned runs.

Seats pitched the rest of the way, allowing three hits, two walks and two earned runs while recording two strikeouts. In the field, Magnolia had three errors. Sylvan Hills had none.

Ribble and Lynch led the Panthers with two hits each. Dickson led all batters with two RBIs. Sanders and Seats led the Bears with two hits apiece. They each went 2 for 3. Michael Coven, JoJo Craft, Lumpkin and Zac Douglas accounted for the Bears’ other four hits.