Leader Blues

Thursday, July 27, 2006

SPORTS >> Bruins get state bid with victory

IN SHORT: Sylvan Hills’ AAA team eased by Jacksonville in the semis of the zone 3 tournament to advance to the title game and earn a bid to next week’s state playoffs.

By JASON KING
Leader staff writer

Sylvan Hills scored twice in the bottom of the ninth inning to barely pull out a semifinals win over Gwatney Chevrolet at the Zone 3 tournament at Burns Park. The victory qualified the Bruins for the upcoming state American Legion AAA tournament in Fort Smith later this week. The Bruins overcame a 6-1 deficit to rally to an 8-7 win over the Chevy boys.

“We almost waited too late,” Bruins coach Mike Bromley said. “They did what they had to do to get the win, they didn’t quit. We had some boys step up for us and do a good job down the stretch.”

The Bruins went on to the finals against Maumelle, but the Bulldogs claimed theadvantage early with a grand slam home run in the top of the first inning by Razorback signee Evan Cox. Maumelle went on for a 12-4 win to take the zone title, but the Bruins accomplished the number- one goal of qualifying for the state tourney.

It all came down to the bottom of the ninth for both teams. Lead- off batter Chase Elder grounded out at shortstop, but Austin Gwatney was able to reach on an E6. Another ground out to SS from Nathan Van Schoyck put the Bruins on the bubble with two outs, and in desperate need of a hit.

That hit came in the form of a single to left from Jarrett Boles. Boles’ hit scored Gwatney to tie the game, and Roark brought in Boles for the game-winning RBI with a double into deep centerfield.

Jacksonville took control of the semifinal game in the top of the fourth inning, adding to their early 3-1 lead with three more runs off of Bruins starting right hander Tony Pavan. Pavan was coming off a strong summer, but gave up eight hits in three and two thirds innings to give Gwatney a 6-1 lead after four innings.

Pavan was relieved in the fourth by Austin Gwatney. Gwatney went until the ninth inning, giving up only one earned run to Jacksonville off three hits. Bruins ace Ashur Toliver threw the final inning for Sylvan Hills, giving up a walk before retiring the Chevy boys by forcing a pair of infield pop ups.

Both teams scored their first runs of the game in the second inning, but Jacksonville took a 3-1 lead in the top of the third with a RBI double from Zach Thomas that scored Neil Hatcher and Josh Mansfield. Kyle West tried to make it in for a third run on the play, but Bruins catcher Taylor Roark tagged him out at the plate to retire the side.

The Chevy boys stretched their lead in the top of the fourth. Tyler Uptergrove and Randy Peeples both doubled to start the inning.

Peeples’ shot to center scored Uptergrove, and Peeples was driven in by another double from Brian Thurman. Thurman scored off a single from Cameron Hood to make it 6-1, and sent Bromley to the mound to initiate a change in hurlers for the Bruins.

Austin Gwatney came in to get the two outs needed to end Jacksonville’s turn, and then sent them three and out in the top of the fifth.

Sylvan Hills started to close the gap in the bottom of the fifth. A sacrifice grounder from Toliver scored Shawn Bybee, and Hayden Miller was brought in by a single from Ritchie Irvan.

Austin Gwatney added another run in the bottom of the sixth, and Toliver brought the Bruins to within two in the seventh when he came in off a double from Ross Bogard.

Starting Gwatney pitcher Trey Smith lasted until the bottom of the eighth, when he was relieved by Casey Winstead. Winstead gave up one run in the eighth that pulled the Bruins to within one at 7-6.

Sylvan Hills will begin state tournament play on Friday against host team Fort Smith at 1 p.m. The double-elimination tourney will run through next Monday.