Leader Blues

Friday, April 04, 2008

SPORTS >>2007 state runner-up West Memphis is no match for Sylvan Hills

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

Another conference doubleheader, another double romp.

The Sylvan Hills Bears remained perfect in 6A-Conference play on Wednesday afternoon by walloping last year’s state runner-up West Memphis, 12-0 and 16-2, at Sherwood Parks.

The victories — the Bears’ ninth and tenth consecutive — improved them to 15-4 overall, 6-0 in conference play and tied with Marion for first place. The Patriots took two from Jacksonville on Wednesday to move to 6-0.

Over the past nine games, Sylvan Hills has outscored its opponents 120-30. Bears head coach Denny Tipton said he’s not too worried about his team going unchallenged over the past several weeks.

“We’ve had some close games,” he said, noting the Bears escaped with a 5-4 win over Jonesboro in a sweep of the Hurricane to open league play. “But these are a lot easier on the coach.”

Sylvan Hills four losses this season have been by one run each — two in extra innings.

Extra innings were not an issue on Wednesday. In fact, both games ended early. D.J. Baxendale was untouchable in the opener, losing a no-hitter in the fifth when Michael Harrell led off the fifth and final inning with a looper that dropped in for West Memphis’ only hit.

“D.J. has pitched well for us all year,” Tipton said of the junior transfer from Abundant Life who has already committed to Missouri State. “That’s his third one-hitter in conference and in all of them, they seem to get a little Texas Leaguer on him. I think in all his conference games, they’ve only hit two balls out of the infield on him.”

With a fastball nearing 90 miles per hour, and a wicked slider and curve ball to go along with it, Baxendale (6-1) had the Blue Devils waving awkwardly all night. Baxendale struck out nine and walked only one.

The Bears got all they needed in the first when they parlayed four walks, two wild pitches and Jack Chambers’ two-run single into a 4-0 lead. They padded that to 10-0 in the second, getting another RBI-single by Chambers and a two-run double by Blake Evans.

Evans added an RBI-double to the fence in center field in the fourth, and Clint Thornton delivered him with a single.

The Bears didn’t exactly pound the ball in the first game, finishing with just seven hits. But their bats came alive in the nightcap when they pounded out 14 hits. Baxendale and Hunter Miller combined to go 6 for 7 with seven RBI in the second game, but the bottom of the Bears’ order came through all night.

Chambers, Evans and Jordan Spears — the seven, eight and nine hitters — each had two hits. Chambers drove in three runs. In the opener, Chambers and Evans each went 2 for 3 with three RBI apiece.

“We’ve been hitting pretty good one through nine,” Tipton said. “That’s the key and that’s what I tell them: Don’t panic. If it’s not your night to hit, somebody else will pick it up. We’re pretty consistent up and down the lineup. When we all hit on the same night, we’re pretty good.”

The Bears jumped out to a quick start in game two with Miller collecting an RBI single and Baxendale bringing in a second run with a sacrifice fly. Sylvan Hills plated three more in the second. Spears had a sacrifice fly, followed by RBI singles from Miller and Baxendale as the Bears took a 5-0 lead.

After going 1-2-3 in the third, Sylvan Hills sent 11 men to the plate in the fourth, scoring six. The big blow was Miller’s two-run homer to left-center. Miller went 3 for 4 with four RBI. Chambers added a two-run single and Evans an RBI single in the inning.

West Memphis avoided a five-inning run rule by scoring two with two outs in the fifth to make it 11-2 and extend the game.

But Sylvan Hills went back to work in the top of the sixth, sending 10 more to the plate and scoring five. Mark Turpin had a two-run double, while Chambers added an RBI double and Baxendale an RBI single.

Miller (3-1) allowed four hits, three walks and two earned runs over five innings, striking out four. Chambers closed it out in fine fashion by fanning all three West Memphis batters in the sixth.

Sylvan Hills will tangle with the co-leader Patriots when they travel to Marion on Tuesday.