SPORTS >> CAC stuns Sylvan Hills, denies Bears chance for repeat
HOT SPRINGS – Bryce Biggerstaff had his revenge on Sylvan Hills when it counted the most.
Biggerstaff, who was tagged out at the plate by Bears starting pitcher Jordan Spears in the top of the second inning to negate the first potential run for Central Arkansas Christian, came on in relief of Mustang starter Ian Bryan in the bottom of the fifth inning on Tuesday in the 5A semifinals.
He helped stop the Sylvan Hills rally at two runs, and struck out the final three batters in the seventh to secure a 3-2 win for CAC for a berth in the 5A state championship game today at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
CAC (20-8) broke a scoreless game in the top of the fifth with three runs, and outlasted a Bears’ comeback on the bottom side to deny a repeat for last year’s Class 6A state champs.
“CAC did a great job,” said Bears coach Denny Tipton. “They kept us off balance. We really didn’t have that many opportunities.
They just beat us today. When we had the opportunities, we didn’t get the gain. We had some chances there at the end, we just didn’t get it done. Our expectations were high. Our goal was to win; we didn’t get it done, so give CAC all the credit.”
The Bears (32-4) used three from their bullpen. Spears was relieved by senior shortstop Justin Treece in the top of the third inning, who gave way to Blake Evans to begin the sixth inning. Starter Spears was feast or famine, as he gave up three walks and two hits, but struck out four. Treece gave up a walk in the third, two more in the fourth, but held CAC without a hit during that time. That changed in the fifth, when the Mustangs got him for three hits and three walks, resulting in three scores.
Senior second baseman D.J. Baxendale began the Bears’ rally in the fifth with a walk, followed by a base-on-balls to freshman catcher Blake Baxendale. D.J. had to wait through a pair of pop outs before scoring on a single by right fielder Michael Maddox.
Blake scored on a double steal that caught Maddox between first and second, ending Sylvan Hills’ turn after two runs.
Only one other Bear made it on after that.
Biggerstaff replaced Bryan after Maddox’ single, and sent the Bears three up and three down in the sixth. Nathan Eller led off the bottom of the seventh with a single to left center, but the CAC ace dug deep to fan both Baxendales and Spears to prevent the tying run from coming across.
The decisive top of the fifth for the Mustangs started with a single by Bryan, who was caught on a fielder’s choice by John Edwards for the first out. Andrew Pellcey walked to put runners at first and second. One out later, Biggerstaff doubled to score Edwards for the first run of the game. Geno Jameson was then intentionally walked, and Blake Leisenring singled to plate Pellcey to make it 2-0 and load the bases for the Mustangs.
Treece walked Brock Ashford to give Biggerstaff the free trip across for what turned out to be the winning run.
The Mustangs’ first opportunity came in the top of the second. Biggerstaff walked to start the frame, and advanced on a single by Jameson. Leisenring then doubled to send Biggerstaff around the diamond. The throw from left field was off the mark at the plate, but Blake Baxendale recovered and tossed to Spears at the plate, who got the tag just in time to prevent the run.
Sylvan Hills’ only other hit of the game was a bloop single by Eric McKinney in the bottom of the third with two outs, but he was picked off by Bryan.
In all, the Bears gave up six hits, 10 walks and committed two errors. Spears, Treece and Evans combined for 10 strikeouts.
Bryan gave up two hits and two walks while fanning three for CAC, while Biggerstaff allowed only one hit while striking out three.
CAC will take on Harrison, a 7-6 semis winner over Little Rock Christian, today at Baum Stadium at 5:30 p.m.
The Bears advanced in Monday’s quarterfinal round with a 5-2 win over Greenbrier. The Panthers struck first with a pair of runs in the top of the second inning, but a base-clearing double by Ty Van Schoyck on the bottom side cleared the bases and put the Bears up 3-2. D.J. Baxendale scored on a double steal in the bottom of the fifth inning before Michael Maddox set the final margin with an RBI single later in the same frame.