SPORTS>>Sylvan Hills opens tourney with victory
Leader sports editor
If it was a gamble, it paid off big time.
Reaching fairly far down into his pitching rotation and even beyond it, Sylvan Hills head coach Mike Bromley selected Nathan Eller to start the Bruinsí first-round game in the American Legion Senior State Tournament on Friday afternoon at Burns Park.
And Eller, most often used inrelief, delivered, tossing a 7-hit complete game in the Bruinsí 9-1 cruise past Little Rock Blue. Sylvan Hills will be able to call on both of its aces in D.J. Baxendale and Blain Sims as well as Ross Bogard, Brandon Chastain and Chris Eastham over the final four days of the tournament.
The Bruins will take on Fridayís Jonesboro-Fort Smith winner today at 4:30 in a winnerís bracket contest.
Eller received errorless defensive support, which included a pair of double plays and catcher Cody Cormierís shootdown of a would-be base stealer, but got little in the way of offensive support until the Bruins erupted for six runs in the ninth inning to pull away.
Bogard, who drove in four runs, belted a leadoff home run in the second to stake the Bruins to a 1-0 lead, and Eller made that hold up until his offense gave him some insurance with single runs in the fifth and sixth.
Baxendale delivered a 2-out RBI single in the fifth, driving in Matt Rugger, and Clint Thornton made it 3-0 in the sixth with a solo shot over the fence in left-center.
Eller got out of a 2-on, 1-out jam in the third and entered the seventh with a 6-hit shutout. Thatís when things got a bit dicey. Dustin Ward led off with a home run and Eller issued a walk to Michael Marsh. With one out, Eller ran the count to 3-0 on Brett Golden, who represented the tying run.
But Rugger made the play of the game at second base, racing into shallow right to haul in Goldenís soft liner, then turning it into an inning-ending double play as Sylvan Hills preserved its narrow 3-1 lead.
Eller hit leadoff batter Bradley Silfies to start the eighth and with one out, Tyler Brown hit a high chop that appeared to be heading over Garrett Ellerís head at first. But Eller leaped to stab it and raced to the bag for the out. Eller then got Tyler Brown on a lineout to center to end the threat.
After sweating through a couple of tough situations, Eller was able to breathe easy when Sylvan Hills sent 10 to the plate and scored six in the ninth to extend the 2-run lead to eight. Three errors, a Justin Treece double and a hit batter set up Bogard for a 3-run triple just inside the bag at first.
The Bruins finished with seven hits and benefited from five Little Rock Blue errors. Bogard and Thornton each had two hits.
Eller struck out three, walked one and hit one.