SPORTS>>Bad luck buffets SH Bears
Leader sports editor
Things started poorly for Sylvan Hills Saturday in their Class 6A baseball quarterfinal matchup with West Memphis, and they stayed that way for three hours as the Bears were the victims of the tournament’s biggest upset, losing 10-2 to the Blue Devils at Harding University.
They went down 2-0 in the top of the first inning, as the Bears gave up two runs right off the bat. Things went just as poorly for Sylvan Hills at the plate early in the game. Three-hole hitter Hunter Miller had a pitch behind his back hit the bat and roll fair, where it was scooped up and thrown to first almost before Miller realized the ball was in play. Amazingly, it was only the first of two wild pitches in the game that careened of Bear bats.
“We got off to a bad start and just never could catch a break,” Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton said. “I still wasn’t really worried though until the Jackson kid hit that home run that put them up 7-1. I started thinking we might be in trouble then.”
Leading 4-1, West Memphis added three more runs on a three-RBI dinger by Jackson Smith. The three were runs were unearned, as a two-out error at short kept the inning alive. Stewart Warner reached with a two-out single to start the fourth-inning rally before Scarborough reahed on the E6.
The lead grew to 10-1 in the top of the sixth, but the Bears got out of what was almost a mercy rule ending. Jackson Smith, TJ Holt and Hardage walked the bases loaded with no outs. Harrell then hit a fly to shallow right field that wasn’t deep enough to score Smith from third, but Quentin Smith singled to right to drive in two runs.
The Bears threatened to rally in the bottom of the sixth, but managed just one run despite putting runners on second and third with one out and running Hardage off the mound.
Tony Pavan led off with a triple down the right field line and scored on a single by Thornton. Nathan Eller and Roark then walked and moved up a base each on a wild pitch. That drove starting pitcher McCully Hardage off the mound and to third base, where he would prove just as instrumental.
Turpin then struck out, and bad luck again reared its ugly head for the Bears. Miller pulled a hard line drive down the third base line that was snagged by Hardage, who turned and stepped on the bag to double up Eller and end the inning.
“If that’s one foot either way, we score a couple of runs have a runner on,” Tipton said. “You never know what could happen from there. It just wasn’t our day, and give West Memphis credit. They’re playing good baseball right now and they made plays when they needed them.”
Roark took the mound in the seventh and sat the Devils down in order, but the Bears couldn’t score in the bottom half of the frame, despite putting the first two batters on base.
West Memphis took the lead in the first when Dylan Scarborough reached on a fielder’s choice after leadoff hitter Stewart Warner walked. Scarborough scored on catcher Jackson Smith’s double to left field. Three batters later, a single by Charlie Harrell drove in Smith to give the Blue Devils a 2-0 lead.
West Memphis added two more in the top of the third after the Bears managed just one base hit in the first two innings.
This time the Devils got some help. Bogard gave up a hit to Scarborough and threw a wild pitch to move the runner to second to start the inning, prompting Tipton to pull him and insert Blaine Sims on the mound.
Sims inherited a 2-0 count to Smith, who then reached on an error at shortstop. Sims got the next batter to pop up to second, but another error at short scored Scarborough.
After a strikeout, a base hit to centerfield by Quentin Smith scored Jackson Smith, an error in center then prompted Hardage to try and score, but he wasthrown out at home to end the inning.
The Bears scored in the bottom of the third. Nathan Eller was hit by a pitch and scored two batters later on a double to right field by Mark Turpin, but the momentum was short-lived. The Blue Devils posted another run in the top of the fifth on three successive base hits by Harlen Bell, Tucker Holder and Warner.
Sylvan Hills left 13 runners on base and had two runners caught on the base paths in the game. West Memphis doubled Sylvan Hills hit total with 12 base raps, and committed no errors compared the Sylvan Hills’ three miscues.
“I thought my kids never quit, they just couldn’t get a break” Tipton said. “I thought we had a great year. We won conference with a lot of new faces and a lot of people picking us not to win it this year. I told them to not judge their season on one game. We had a great year, we’re conference champs and we did a lot of things that we can build off of next season.”