Tuesday, March 31, 2009

SPORTS >> Lady Lions edge Cabot in extra innings

Leader sportswriter

The pitchers’ duel between Searcy sophomore Amber Rollins and Cabot senior Cherie Barfield ended up scratch through the first seven innings.

But the Lady Lions (9-2) wasted little time removing their goose egg from the scoreboard in the top of the eighth inning.

Searcy cashed in on a pair of misplayed bunts by the Lady Panther defense to claim a thrilling 3-1 win on Monday at Conrade Sports Complex.

The Lady Panthers (5-3) had already worked themselves out of one pickle in the top of the third inning when Searcy had bases loaded and cleanup hitter Nila Navarro at the plate. With two outs, Barfield forced Navarro to ground out to second to keep the game scoreless.

Cabot was not so fortunate in the eighth, however. Freshman runner Laura Beth Shrum took second base to start extra innings (under universal rules, a team begins each extra inning with a runner at second base), and quickly advanced to third when leadoff batter Morgan Thomason reached on a bunt single, just beating the throw to first by Barfield.

Junior Noelle Burley drove in Shrum with a bunt that was mishandled, and Thomason came in when a Navarro buntwas also misplayed. Amanda Richardson brought home the insurance run when she blooped a single over Cabot third baseman Tara Boyd to make it 3-0.

“We’ve worked and worked on that situation, knowing that it was going to come,” said Lady Panther coach Becky Steward. “But there were some miscues. The girls didn’t talk. So hopefully they will learn from what just happened and not let it happen again in the future.”

Cabot was able to make up one of those runs when leadoff batter Becca Bakalekos singled in universal runner Bre Bogard with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning. Bakalekos advanced on a single to right by second baseman Kristi Flesher to put the tying runs on, but Rollins forced a groundout from Chelsea Conrade to end it.

“We needed to be a little more selective at the plate,” said Steward. “We didn’t know where the strike zone was part of the time. But when you get two strikes on you, you’ve got to protect yourself and foul them off. I think we just pressed a little too hard.”

Rollins barely bested her elder foe Barfield in the final tally, but overall defense was the difference on the scoreboard. Barfield finished with seven strikeouts, while allowing five hits and one walk. Rollins gave up four hits and a walk, and had one hit-by-pitch while fanning 11.

The Lady Lions went error-free, while Cabot had four, two of which came in the decisive eighth inning.

“I told the girls to get the first run,” said Searcy coach Kyle Hunt. “A lot of times, teams will get so wrapped up in the first run that they start making mistakes, which is what happened today.”

Hunt was also pleased with the defensive effort despite a few cobwebs in the early going.

“Defensively, I thought for the game we were real rusty,” he said. “We haven’t practiced since before spring break. We took 10 days off and came back, but I thought we were pretty good defensively.”

Thomason was 2 of 3 for Searcy with an RBI. Evans went 2 of 3 to lead the Lady Panthers. Richardson and Burley also had a single and an RBI each for the Lady Lions, while Bakelekos had the only RBI of the game for Cabot.

Cabot’s scheduled 7A-Central conference game at Van Buren last night was called off because of rain. The Lady Panthers will host Russellville on Thursday and travel to Conway on Friday.

Searcy will return to 6A-East Conference play on Thursday at home against Jonesboro.