SPORTS >> Bruins advance in state
By JASON KING
Leader sports writer
FORT SMITH – Sylvan Hills made it through the first weekend of the Class AAA American Legion state tournament at Crowder Field on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith.
The Bruins won their opener Saturday against the host team Ft. Smith Kerwins 7-3, but dropped their Sunday game against Searcy Crain Automotive 10-4. The loss put them in the losers bracket, and pitted them against Van Buren in an early Monday game. Van Buren led until the seventh inning, but Sylvan Hills pulled it out in the game’s closing stages for a 6-2 win, knocking the Beau’s Tuxedos Van Buren team out of the tournament.
“We survived that one,” Sylvan Hills coach Mike Bromley said. “There was one play at second that really helped us out. We already had the lead at that point, but that play let us get a cushion.”
Sylvan Hills led Van Buren 3-2 in the bottom of the eighth in-ning with bases loaded and one out. Nathan Van Schoyck then hit into what could have easily been a 6-4-3 double play, but Van Buren shortstop Wesley Strassle missed the throw to second by several feet, and the ball ended up at the fence between first base and right field. Instead of two outs, Van Schoyck’s grounder netted three runs as Ashur Tolliver, Ritchie Irvin and Austin Gwatney easily made it in to clear the bases and set the final margin.
Saturday’s opener against Fort Smith was just as closely contested. The Bruins held a narrow 3-2 lead for much of the contest, but a run from Tolliver in the bottom of the seventh and three more in the eighth helped Sylvan Hills secure the first-round win.
The game was scoreless until the bottom of the second, when Hayden Miller scored off a single to right from David Simpson.
Jerry Lawson then tagged up on a pop-up to center from Gwatney for the second run, putting the Bruins up 2-0.
The Kerwins cut that lead in half in the top of the fourth inning with a run from Ian Gilley.
Tolliver scored on a passed ball in the bottom of the fifth for Sylvan Hills, but the Kerwins made that run up in the top of the sixth to keep the game a one-score affair.
Tolliver scored again in the bottom of the seventh, this time off a RBI single to right from Chase Elder to give the Bruins a 4-2 lead.
Tolliver’s biggest contribution in the game was at the mound for the Bruins. The southpaw UALR signee went all nine innings, allowing nine hits and three walks while striking out five batters.
The Bruins put the game away in the bottom of the eighth. Runs from Shawn Bybee, Gwatney and Tolliver increased Sylvan Hills’ lead to 7-2 heading into the final frame.
Ft. Smith’s only hit in the final inning produced a run from Javier Olazigasti, but it would not be enough. The Bruins headed on to the next round of the winners bracket with a Sunday evening matchup with Searcy.
Three Crain team home runs were the deciding factor in the second-round contest on Sunday. Adam Robertson put the first one over the wall in the bottom of the fourth for a 2-0 Crain lead.
Searcy led 3-0 after five innings, but would put the game away in the sixth inning. Shane Crossen started things off with a homer that breezed by the scoreboard in left field.
The next score came from Heath Wyatt off a single from Wesley Benton. Robbie Hohler followed that with a two-run home run that bounced off the light pole in left field to score himself and Benton for a 7-0 lead. Before the end of the seventh, Searcy had built an insurmountable 9-0 lead.
Sylvan Hills made up two runs in the top of the seventh, and a two-run home run from Ryan Wood in the top of the ninth would cut the lead to a more respectable 10-4.
It would be as close as the Bruins would come, however, as the Crain team racked up ten runs off thirteen hits to take the win. Sylvan Hills had four runs off six hits in the game.
Scott Hudgins took the win at the mound for Searcy, going six and one-third innings for Crain and only giving up one earned run.
“They had a young man on the mound that threw very well, and kept us off balance,” Bromley said. “We got so far behind that it was hard to come back. If we could have kept it closer, we might have had a chance to come back on them.”
Monday’s win against Van Buren put them in a Tuesday afternoon game with the loser of the Pine Bluff and Searcy quarterfinals game after Leader deadlines.