SPORTS >> Bears won’t repeat
Leader sports writer
The Sylvan Hills Bears came up short in their bid to repeat as Class AAAAA state champions. In one inning, Sylvan Hills watched a great season slip away after winning the AAAAA East title and advancing into the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs.
Fayetteville (West No. 2) scored 10 of its total 11 runs in the top of the fourth inning in the second round of the AAAAA state playoffs after a questionable call gave the Bulldogs the momentum in the game. Fayetteville gave Sylvan Hills (East No. 1) its first shut ut and first run-ruled loss of the season, ending one of the favorites for the state crown’s chances Monday night at the Don McGee Complex in North Little Rock.
“We can go back and do a lot of ‘what if’s’,” Bears head coach Denny Tipton said. “Did we deserve to win? No. Did they feed off of the call? Yes. We can second guess ourselves all week long, but I still probably would have done things the same. That was the call, and that’s how quickly things can change.”
The call in question happened in the top of the fourth. Fayetteville scored its first run with one out in the inning after loading the bases. Bulldog substitute runner Collin Sanders came home on a passed ball, giving them a 1-0 lead and moving Drew Baker to third.
Tim Carver then bunted into a fielder’s choice for Bears third baseman Nathan Van Schoyck. Van Schoyck made the throw to catcher Taylor Roark, who tagged Baker as he approached the plate. The umpire ruled Baker safe, to the dismay of Tipton and the entire Sylvan Hills’ dugout. Tipton disputed the call repeatedly, but the run stood, and Fayetteville began a scoring marathon that would span over 40 minutes and three Sylvan Hills pitchers in one inning.
After three-and-a-half innings, starting Bears pitcher Tony Pavan was relieved by Ross Bogard after striking out four batters and giving up four hits and three walks. After giving up two walks and committing an error, Bogard was replaced by Roark three batters later after three more Bulldog runs.
Another walk loaded the bases again for Fayetteville, and a shot to left field from designated hitter Cameron Walker scored two more runs. The Bears gave up one more hit and committed two more fielding errors before finally stopping the Bulldogs’ rampage.
Fayetteville added one more run in the top of the fifth to set the final margin, before sending Sylvan Hills out after four batters in the bottom of the fifth.
The Bears finished the game with five hits, no runs and five errors. A total of four pitchers took turns at the mound for Sylvan Hills. Fayetteville finished with eight hits, 11 runs and no errors. Sylvan Hills ended the season with a final record of 22-9.
Saturday’s game against North Little Rock had a completely different tone. Hillside’s southpaw standout Ashur Tolliver had a career game. The future UALR Trojan turned the anticipated pitchers’ showdown between he and North Little Rock’s Evan Cox into a no contest by hitting a pair of two-run home runs off the Wildcats ace.
“I told the guys, ‘Mark my words, I’m going to get my next home run off of Cox’,” Tolliver said. “I knew we had to come out and try to overpower them. I just went into the game with a relaxed attitude.”
Tolliver went 3 for 3 against Cox, scoring a single with his first at-bat before jacking it over in both the third and fourth innings. The second home run in the bottom of the fourth inning prompted a pitching change for the Wildcats, replacing Cox with Kevin Coleman.
Coleman gave up two walks to Shawn Bybee and Van Schojck in- between a fielding error that allowed Austin Gwatney to reach, loading the bases for Sylvan Hills.
Hunter Miller was the fourth batter Coleman faced, and the most damaging. Miller sent the ball out of the park, recording a grand slam and putting the Bears ahead 12-1. Designated hitter Jarrett Boles then doubled off of Coleman with a shot into left field, forcing yet another change at the mound for NLR.
The Wildcats finally got their first out of the inning when Mark Turpin sacrifice bunted to advance Boles to third. Roark then doubled to left to score Boles, which pushed the score to 13-1.
The Wildcats had to come away with three runs in the top of the fifth in order for the game to continue, but Tolliver would have none of it. He struck out Travis Reed and Coleman to start off the inning, before allowing a single from Dustin Pierce. Lead-off batter DeMarcus Ingram was the last hope for the Charging Wildcats, but a pop up to second baseman Bybee ended the game, and sent the Bears into the second round.
It was actually North Little Rock that struck first in the contest, scoring its one and only run in the top of the second inning with a solo home run from Ryan Byers. The Bears tied things up in the bottom of the second when Hunter Miller scored off a NLR fielding error. North Little Rock’s defensive breakdown began in the bottom of the third.
Roark started the inning off with a double, followed by a bunt from Hayden Miller to score Roark after a NLR error. At that point, Tolliver put down one of his two homers, followed by a single from Boles to score Hunter Miller.
Sylvan Hills still had two runners in position when the breakthrough inning finally ended.
The Bears finished the game with 13 runs, 12 hits and no errors. North Little Rock had one run, three hits and three errors. Tolliver took the win with a total of seven strikeouts. Tolliver was 3 for 4 with two home runs. Hunter Miller was 2 for 2 with a grand slam home run and a walk. Boles finished 2 for 2 and reached by error, and Roark was 2 for 4.