SPORTS >> Sylvan Hills advances to Class A legion state
Leader sports writer
IN SHORT: The Bruins A team took second in the Zone 2 tourney and will play in state Thursday.
Sylvan Hills came up one run short of claiming its second-straight Zone two American Legion Class A title, but did manage to qualify for this week’s state tourney with a runner-up finish to zone winner Conway.
The Wampus Cats were the only team to go undefeated in the tournament at Vince De Salvo Stadium in North Little Rock, but not before a close final game against the Bruins.
After a convincing 10-2 win over Greenbrier in the opening round on Thursday, a close 12-10 loss to Gwatney Chevrolet Friday night put the Bruins in the loser’s bracket early on. Sylvan Hills recovered from Friday’s slip, beating Vilonia 4-2 before overtaking the Panthers for the second straight time. The two wins on Saturday put them in a rematch with Jacksonville on Sunday to determine Conway’s opponent in the finals.
Sylvan Hills was determined not to lose two straight games to its local rival, taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Cody Wood set up the early run by reaching on a Gwatney error, and was driven in moments later by Chris Eastham.
Cody Cormier drove in the next run in the top of the second inning with a RBI that scored T. C. Squires for a 2-0 Bruins lead.
The next score would not come until the top of the fifth inning. Chris Dalton led the inning off with a single hopper at third base. Squires then hit into a fielder’s choice at third base, but Gwatney first baseman Adrian Baker failed to step on the bag after getting the throw from third baseman Cameron Hood.
Thinking he had the out at first, Baker threw the ball back to Hood in an attempt to tag Dalton, but the throw was too high, and Dalton came in for the score to give the Bruins a 3-0 lead.
Baker made up for his defensive slip in the bottom of the sixth with a two-run home run for Jacksonville that closed the gap to 3-2.
Seth Tombolli came in at pitcher for Gwatney in the top of the seventh, and put away the first two batters by forcing pop-ups. Tombolli went for three-up and three-down with Cormier at the plate, but hit him with a pitch to put a runner on for Sylvan Hills.
Blake Rix singled to right field to put two runners on base, and a walk for Jessie Everett loaded the bases for the Bruins with two outs.
The deciding moment in the game occurred when following batter Wood knocked it into centerfield to score all three runners, giving Sylvan Hills a 6-2 lead and killing any hopes of a Gwatney comeback.
Sylvan Hills starting pitcher Eastham went the distance on the mound for the Bruins, giving up only one hit to Jacksonville in the final inning to secure the win and send them into the final game against Conway.
The Bruins took to the field to face the Wampus Cats less than a half an hour after beating Jacksonville. Conway arrived well-rested and ready to play, putting Sylvan Hills at a disadvantage before the game even started.
If the Bruins were fatigued, they showed no sign of it early on. The game went scoreless until the top of the third inning, when Sylvan Hills struck first with a sacrifice fly from Eastham that allowed Everett to tag up at third for the score.
Sylvan Hills held on to the narrow lead until the bottom of the fourth, when a passed ball allowed James Murphy in for the first Conway run of the game, tying the score at 1-1.
Ricky Wheeler came in to relieve starting Bruins pitcher Brandon Chastain at that point, but the Wampus Cats tacked on two more runs in the inning to take a 3-1 lead after four.
Ross Bogard scored on a Conway fielding error in the top of the sixth to close the gap to within a single run at 3-2, but it would be the final score in the game for either team.
Wood put the tying run in position for Sylvan Hills in the top of the seventh by reaching third base, but a pop-up from Bogard gave Conway the third out of the inning, and sealed the win for the Wampus Cats.
Sylvan Hills finished the game with two runs, three hits and one error. Conway had three runs, one hit and two errors.
Sylvan Hills will start state tournament play tomorrow with a 10 a.m. matchup against host team North Little Rock. The Colts will be looking to redeem themselves after going winless in the zone tourney with losses to Conway and Greenbrier.