Leader Blues

Monday, March 12, 2007

SPORTS >>Falcons start 5A-East with sweep of Chicks

IN SHORT: North Pulaski’s baseball team won both ends of a conference double dip.

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

The North Pulaski baseball team got 5A-East play off to a good start Tuesday night, pulling off a doubleheader sweep of Blytheville to open league play 2-0. The two wins also pulls the Falcon to .500 on the season at 4-4. NP beat Blytheville 5-4 and 7-6, holding off Chickasaw rallies late in both games.

“We tried to give both of them away, but we found a way to hang on,” North Pulaski coach Robbie Walker said. “We’re so young this year, we’re looking for positives. Getting back under control and hanging on for those two wins was a big positive for us.”

In game one, the Falcons grabbed a small early lead with a run in the bottom of the first inning. They added two more runs in the fourth, but saw the lead disappear when the Chickasaws scored three runs in the top of the fifth.

The Falcons added a run each in the bottom of the fifth and sixth innings, and staved off another Blytheville rally in the seventh to secure the win.

With North Pulaski leading in the seventh inning, disaster struck momentarily for the Falcons.

The Chickasaw leadoff hitter walked. A base hit moved the runners up with one out, and an error allowed a run to score and left runners on first and third.

Senior starting pitcher Shane Graham got out of the jam, but not before a brief scare. Graham got the next batter to pop up to first base. The next hitter lined a hard shot to shortstop, where it was snagged to end the game.

North Pulaski took the lead in the bottom of the first when Shoin Hand scored on a sacrifice grounder by A.J. Allen. Hand had reached on an error, stole second and advanced to third on a passed ball.

In the fourth inning, Graham started things off with a comebacker that the Blytheville pitcher mishandled. Brian Thurman singled and D. Thurman doubled to drive Graham home. Brian Thurman tried to steal home, but was called out. Daniel Thurman advanced to third on the play, and scored in a wild pitch to give North Pulaski a 3-0 lead. After Blytheville tied it with three runs in the top of the fifth, NP took the lead back in the bottom half of the same frame.

Again Hand got the run. He was hit by a pitch, stole two bases and scored on another passes ball.

Daniel Thurman scored the final run for the Falcons in the sixth inning. He walked and moved to third on a double by Brandon Roberts. S. Winer then hit a dribbler that was fielded by the catcher. The throw went to first for one out, but Thurman beat the throw back home to give NP a two-run cushion at 5-3.

Graham went the distance, giving up three earned runs on seven hits. The two by Daniel Thurman and one by Brian Thurman were all the base hits the Falcons needed for the victory. Blytheville, who doesn’t have a senior on the roster, committed five errors to aid the Falcons’ cause.

“I thought we hit the ball pretty well,” North Pulaski coach Robbie Walker said. “We just hit it right to people. I’ve been pretty pleased with how we’re hitting the ball considering we have such a young and inexperienced team. We’ve got to get better at catching it though. We’re committing way too many errors.”

The Falcons’ game two win saw Blytheville score three runs in the sixth inning to turn a 7-3 deficit into a 7-6 game heading into the last inning. Hand came on in relief of starting pitcher Brian Thurman to close out the seventh inning in just four batters. Thurman went six and a third, giving up just four hits, but NP committed nine errors in the game.

Allen went 2 for 3 with doubles and two RBIs in the win. Graham and Roberts also posted two hits each to lead NP’s offense.