Sylvan Hills’ 2-2 mark in last weekend’s American Legion zone tournament may not look good on the surface, but it was enough to earn a berth in this weekend’s state tournament.
Sylvan Hills will face Paragould in the tournament’s first game at 10 a.m. Friday at North Little Rock’s Burns Park. The Bruins will face either Bentonville or Texarkana on Saturday, depending upon the outcome of the first day’s games. If Sylvan Hills is in the loser’s bracket, it plays at 10 a.m. Saturday. If the Bruins win Friday, then 4 p.m. Saturday will be the next time they take the field.
Other teams in the field are host North Little Rock, Blytheville, Bryant and Rogers. They are in the opposite bracket.
Sylvan Hills manager Brandon Eller said his team’s bats got hot early in the zone tournament and remained consistent.
"We hit the ball very well," said Eller. "We had double-digit hits in every game."
And they got good run production from those base knocks, putting up eight and 10 runs, respectively, in their two wins and producing six- and eight-run efforts in two losses to North Little Rock in the championship series.
Eller said his team will have to pitch well against the likes of Texarkana and Bentonville in the first two rounds, once they get past Paragould.
If Dylan Boone, the likely game-one starter, has an outing like he did in game one of the zone tournament, Sylvan Hills’ well-stocked pitching staff will suddenly appear deeper, according to Eller.
Boone needed only 109 pitches in a nine-inning complete game performance over Cabot. Boone allowed just two hits and one unearned run in an 8-1 victory.
Also mentioned was Conner Eller’s durability in a pair of outings in relief.
Eller mentioned that his team will have to eliminate small mistakes if they are to make some noise in this tournament.
"We need to get better at the little things," coach Eller said. "A couple of times last weekend, we forgot to cover first on bunt plays. It’s the little mistakes and the details that hurt us."
Eller said his team has the ability to overcome mistakes with effort and that has resulted in a state tournament appearance just a year removed from an abysmal three-win season in 2011.
The team’s good effort and lively bats will be tested, beginning Friday at Burns Park..