Monday, March 23, 2009

SPORTS >> Lady Panthers can’t overcome bad start

Leader sportswriter

Bryant rode its big start all the way to a 7A-Central Conference win on Thursday at Conrade Sports Complex. Cabot surrendered four runs in the top of the first inning, and came up two runs short in its rally in the bottom of the sixth, as the Lady Hornets went on to claim a 4-2 win, handing Cabot its first league loss of the season.

Cabot pitcher Cherie Barfield recovered nicely from a disastrous first inning, in which the senior gave up five hits, including a leadoff triple by Cassidy Wilson. Bryant managed only three more hits through the next six innings, but the damage was already done.

“The kids did a good job of regaining their composure,” said Lady Panthers coach Becky Steward. “The sixth inning was our best shot at coming back on them. We made up two of them, but we have to grow from that and learn to push more runs across in those kinds of situations.”

Sophomore Kristi Flesher led the Cabot charge in the bottom of the sixth when she singled to left. Shortstop Chelsea Conrade followed Flesher with another single, and an error at third base by Jenny Evans loaded the bases for the Lady Panthers with no outs.

Junior catcher Pete Reed drove in Flesher with a single to right center to make it 4-1, but dominant Bryant pitcher Christian Kirshner fanned the next batter for the first out. Conrade was forced at the plate when a bunt by Barfield rolled to Lady Hornets third baseman Jessie Taylor.

Bryant catcher Sarah Hart tried to catch Evans off the bag at third, but overthrew to Taylor. That allowed Evans across for the score, but Hart caught Reed and Barfield trying to advance. Reed made it back to second safely, but Barfield was not as fortunate at first base.

Kirshner allowed little room for a final rally in the seventh. She struck out the first two batters before a groundout by Flesher ended it.

Steward’s mix of experience and youth has worked well for the Lady Panthers team in the early season as they have put together a 5-2 overall record, 3-1 in the 7A-Central Conference. But she said there are still lessons to be learned.

“I wish I knew,” Steward said of Cabot’s shaky effort in the first inning. “The kids seemed to be focused, but we do have some young people out there who did not play last year. I felt like this was our first really true test in conference play. No loss is a good one, but if they can take this and learn from it and improve, we’ll be okay.”

It didn’t take long for the Lady Hornets to establish the advantage. Wilson’s triple to start the game produced a run when two-hole hitter Kayla Sory singled with a grounder. A double by cleanup hitter Kirshner advanced Sory to third, and a single by Wilson drove them both in. Wilson scored the final Bryant run when first baseman Peyton Jenkins brought her in with a single.

Reed went 2 of 3 with a double and an RBI to lead the Lady Panthers. Barfield gave up eight hits while striking out four. Kirshner had eight strikeouts while giving up five hits, three of which came in the bottom of the sixth.