SPORTS >> Hillside sweeps Searcy
Leader sports writer
IN SHORT:The Sylvan Hills baseball Bears got a big doubleheader sweep of previously undefeated Searcy Monday night at Sylvan Hills High School.
Sylvan Hills came one step closer to owning at least a share of the AAAAA-East conference title on Monday with a huge two-game sweep of previously undefeated Searcy. The Bears took a close opener in extra innings 4-3, and routed the frustrated Lions in the nightcap 12-4. They were the first conference losses of the year for Searcy, dropping the Lions out of a first-place tie with Cabot and instantly moving Sylvan Hills above them in the league standings.
“They were big wins for us,” Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton said. “We’ve gone through some adversity in the last week, losing two starters to broken bones. Overall, it was a good night. We swung the bat really well.”
Sylvan Hills took the early lead in the bottom of the first inning when lead-off batter Taylor Roark was driven in by a shot to centerfield from Hayden Miller. Miller was driven in with another deep center hit from Austin Gwatney.
A fielding error put Lions batter Scott Sammons on first base to start the second inning, but starting Bears pitcher Ashur Tolliver ended Searcy’s turn with three of his total sixteen strikeouts for the game.
Sylvan Hills kept a 2-0 lead until the top of the fourth inning, when Searcy senior Scott Hudgins scored off a single from Sammons. Tolliver again prevented a Lions’ slugfest, striking out the following two batters to end the top of the session.
Searcy took its first and only lead of the evening in the top of the sixth inning. After a strikeout from Easton Valentine, Scott Hudgins and Kyle Taylor both singled to put the Lions in scoring position. Catcher Shane Crossen put the ball deep in right field to score both runners, putting Searcy ahead 3-2.
Sylvan Hills needed a run desperately in the bottom of the seventh to salvage the game. Searcy put Valentine on the mound to try and secure the win.
Valentine struck out Tony Pavan to start the inning, but walked following batter Hayden Miller. With the tying run on, Tolliver smashed the ball deep into right field, driving in Miller with a game-saving double. Austin Gwatney attempted to bring in Tolliver, but line-drived to third base to end regulation.
The game went to the bottom of the ninth, when Tolliver struck again for the Bears. Taylor Roark walked, and Tolliver brought him in with another double down the right-field line to score the winning run.
Tolliver went 2 for 4 with a pair of doubles and drove in the game-tying and game-winning runs offensively, and had sixteen strikeouts on the mound.
Despite his efforts, the game win was actually given to Caleb Mayden, who pitched the final inning.
Game two was a pitching disaster for both squads. Three Searcy pitchers and four pitchers for Sylvan Hills highlighted a sloppy nightcap. After the excitement of the first game, game two went on much longer than the extra-inning opener.
The Bears started out strong, scoring four runs in the opening inning. Tolliver drove in the first run when he grounded out, allowing Roark to score. Gwatney, Hunter Miller and Pavan also had RBI’s in the opening frame to put Sylvan Hills up 4-0 after one.
By the bottom of the fifth, Sylvan Hills had built a 10-0 lead and was on the verge of run-ruling the Lions.
New pitcher Blaine Sims walked Anthony Dillon and Justin Rowden to start the inning. Sims balked during Valentine’s turn at the plate, moving Dillon and Rowden to third and second. Another balk scored Dillon, putting Searcy on the board for the first time in the game.
“That was a team trying to lose, and another team trying to let them back in the game,” Tipton said. “They all played like no one wanted it.” Sylvan Hills struggled through the final two innings defensively, giving up three more runs to the Lions to set the final margin.
The wins improve Sylvan Hills record to 14-6 overall and 7-1 in conference. Searcy’s league record now stands at 8-2.