SPORTS>>Sylvan Hills runs the table
Leader sports editor
It took just three pitches – and three sparkling defensive plays – for the ‘AAA’ Sylvan Hills Bruins to put the finishing touches on their come-from-behind win over North Little Rock on Saturday afternoon.
The Bruins tied the game in the sixth and took the lead in the seventh. But with the top of a potent Colts lineup due up in the bottom half of the seventh, the game seemed far from over. Actually, it was just three pitches away.
First pitch from Nathan Eller: A rocket headed to left-center but picked off by leaping shortstop Mark Turpin, who caught it in the webbing of his glove.
Second pitch: A shot headed for the gap in right-center but spectacularly caught by diving center fielder Ross Bogart.
Third pitch: A high chopper charged by third baseman T.C. Squires, whose hard throw beat Travis Bearden and secured the Bruins’ 3-2 win in the winner’s bracket of the Gwatney Chevrolet Fourth of July Classic at Dupree Park.
The win was the Bruins third in as many games in the tournament and propelled them into the championship game on Sunday.
But rains washed out the finals and the tournament ended without a champion.
In addition to his extra-bases-saving grab in the seventh, Bogart led the Bruins’ 10-hit attack by going 4 of 4 and scoring the go-ahead run in the seventh.
Sylvan Hills starter Brandon Chastain recorded the first two outs of the first inning before a walk, a double and two singles provided all the scoring for the Colts in the contest.
Chastain allowed only one more base runner the rest of his stint, but was pulled for Eller in the fourth inning.
The Bruins suffered in futility through the early portion of the game, leaving two runners on base in the first, third, fourth and fifth innings. A walk, an error, Bogart’s bloop single and Garrett Eller’s groundout narrowed the Colts’ lead to 2-1 in the third.
Nathan Eller pitched around a pair of one-out singles in the fourth, the inning ending whenTurpin made a diving snag of Clark Sims’ shot toward center. Sims lined out three times, including when Nathan Eller robbed him of a hit leading off the game.
Eller pitched around a one-out walk in the fifth and a leadoff single in the sixth.
The Bruins finally tied the game in the sixth. Matt Rugger looped a single into shallow right, then took second on the right fielder’s throwing error. That proved critical as pinch hitter Korey Arnold’s grounder to short – which might have been a double play with Rugger still at first – moved Rugger to third base with two outs. Clint Thornton then grounded a 3-2 pitch into left to tie it.
Bogart led off the winning rally in the seventh for Sylvan Hills by slapping the first offering into right for his fourth hit of the game. Garrett Eller bunted him to second, and a walk to Squires and a single by Nathan Eller loaded the bases. With two outs, Arnold came through with a single past the third baseman to give the Bruins the lead.
Eller got the win, allowing three hits in four scoreless innings. He struck out three and walked one.
SYLVAN HILLS 3, BENTON 1
Sylvan Hills did all its damage early, then held on in Saturday’s winner’s bracket game.
The Bruins got four of their five hits over four consecutive batters in the first inning, then went almost completely silent against Malvern High standout Kevin White, who fanned 13.
But those three first-inning runs proved more than enough behind a combined 3-hitter by Blain Sims and D.J. Baxendale.
White issued a leadoff walk in to Clint Thornton and one out later Baxendale beat out an infield hit. Bogart lined a single into right to score Thornton and Garrett Eller followed with a solid single through the hole between first and second.
Baxendale made it 2-0 when he scampered across on a wild pitch, and Matt Rugger followed with the Bruins’ fourth consecutive single to make it 3-0.
Sylvan Hills had a good chance for more after T.C. Squires walked to load the bases with one out. But White settled down to record the first two of his 13 strikeouts. The only base runners to reach over the next five innings were on a strikeout/passed ball and a hit batsman.
Sims pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the second, then walked the first two in the fourth. But he retired the next three to preserve the shutout and the 3-run lead.
Benton broke through in the fifth on a walk and a Steven Brooks triple.
Baxendale, who injured his ankle at the plate in the third, was able to shake it off and come on in relief of Sims in the sixth, striking out four of the seven batters he faced and allowing one hit.