The Watson Chapel Wildcats fell 4-3 to the Sylvan Hills Bears in game one of a double-header held Tuesday in Sherwood.
The Bears, led by Denny Tipton, entered the contest tied for first place in the 5A Central standings. Watson Chapel Head Coach Chad Cope watched a two-run lead in the sixth inning dwindle away after a change on the mound.
Watson Chapel junior Gabe Starks served as the starting pitcher. According to Cope, Starks was solid through six innings until a crucial error forced him to make the change on the mound.
“We were up 3-1 in the sixth inning, Gabe was pitching well,” Cope said. “We had a costly error putting runners on second and third. We made a pitching change, and they were able to score a couple runs. We just didn’t close out."
In game two, Sylvan Hills prevailed again, taking down Watson Chapel 3-1. Cope sent two sophomores out to pitch in game two, and that’s an area where injuries and inexperience are affecting the Wildcats. Sophomore Andrew Crossett got the start for Watson Chapel, and sophomore Tyler Clay came in as a reliever.
“We pitched two sophomores,” Cope said. “Cross went through the third and did pretty well. Tyler Clay ended up finishing off for us.”
The Wildcats had their chances in game two as they loaded the bases a couple of times. However, they couldn’t manufacture the timely hit they needed, while the Bears got production in clutch time.
“We had the bases loaded twice, and somebody had to come up and get a big hit and we didn’t,” Cope said. “Winning and losing comes down to one or two at-bats when you’re playing a team like that. They got the hit when it mattered and we didn’t. We have to do a better job of getting runners in scoring position.”
The injury bug has hit the Wildcats early in 5A Central play, but Cope doesn’t want to use that as a bailout. Looking at the bright side, Cope knows this will be a valuable experience for the younger players in the long run.
“We got about three starters out, but it’s no excuses,” Cope said. “We hope to get them back in the next two-to-three weeks. Getting them back will help out a lot. I’m playing a lot of young kids, and they’re getting thrown into the fire. I have to make sure these young kids are feeling confident. We’ll get better every day.”
Dealing with multiple injuries at once is a first for Cope. The fact that the players that are healthy and able to go are giving it their all is pleasing for Cope. Once they return to full strength personnel-wise, Cope expects the Wildcats to be where they need to be in the end.
“I’ve been lucky for nine years, and I’ve never had to deal with injuries like this,” Cope said. “They probably didn’t plan on playing this much, but it’ll help us in the end. We’re pitching two or three sophomores and we’re learning on the job. They’re busting their tails, and I have to put them in the right positions to be successful.”
The Wildcats' next outing will be against the Maumelle Hornets on Tuesday, April 2.