Friday, April 24, 2009

SPORTS >> Early run holds up for Lady Panther

Leader sportswriter

It was the hardest possible way to earn a win, but it proved effective for a defensively stout Cabot team on Thursday. The Lady Panthers (18-6, 10-4 conf.) picked up one run in the opening inning and held on for a 1-0 win over Van Buren at Conrade Sports Complex to all but capture the No. 4 state tournament seed out of the 7A-Central Conference.

Cabot could still earn the No. 3 seed if Bryant (9-2) loses all of its remaining makeup games.

Pete Reed set up the game’s only score when she grounded a single to left field, and Jenny Evans tripled with a grounder that rolled to the fence in center to plate Reed.

It was in the defense’s hands from there, and the Lady Panthers did not disappoint. Pitcher Cherie Barfield gave up only two hits while fanning 11.

“It may have been a little letdown after earlier in the week, because Tuesday night (versus Bryant) was a big win for them,” coach Becky Steward said of her Cabot team. Cabot beat first-place Bryant 7-6. “They probably came out a little flat today, but a win is a win.”

Mistakes were few and far between for the Lady Panthers. Barfield hit one batter and another reached on a bunt. Becca Bakalekos misplayed a fly ball, but recovered to force the runner at second on the play.

Lauren Burnett had the only other Pointerettes’ hit of the game when she sent a line drive into right field in the top of the fourth inning, but she was left stranded when Barfield struck out her seventh victim of the afternoon and then fielded a pop up by Lauren Bryant for the third out.

“We’ve been solid, it hasn’t hurt us too many times this year,” said Steward. “As long as I keep telling them that defense wins, hopefully they will keep playing defense.”

Barfield recorded a strikeout in every inning. Only in the fourth and sixth innings did she have fewer than two. She struck out four straight across the first and second innings to set the tone for the game.

Third baseman Tara Boyd had the trickiest defensive play of the game when she dove for an infield fly in the top of the fourth inning. Boyd could not get control of the ball with her glove, but was able to grab it with her right hand as she headed for the dirt to get the first out of the frame.

Cabot had a chance to add some insurance in the bottom of the sixth inning. Evans singled to left, and advanced to second when Brooke Taylor was walked by Van Buren pitcher Bethany Bailey. Both moved along on a sacrifice bunt by Flesher, but a great defensive play by Pointerettes left fielder Dakota Counts on a pop fly by Chelsea Conrade left both runners on.

Evans led the Lady Panthers at the plate, going 2 of 3 with a triple and an RBI.

The Lady Panthers came up with one of their biggest wins of the season on Tuesday with a 7-6 decision against league-leading Bryant. Cabot jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning before the Lady Hornets went on a four-run spree, including a three-run home run.

Cabot reclaimed the lead in the fifth inning, and catcher Pete Reed preserved the win in the final inning when she picked off the tying run at third. Evans and Tara Boyd were both 2 of 4 with doubles, and Barfield was 2 of 5 with a double. Bryant had nine hits off Barfield, while she struck out four batters from the fourth inning on. The Lady Panthers also made up the remainder of their suspended game against North Little Rock on Wednesday, as the Lady Wildcats handed them their fourth league loss of the year, 4-1.

“I kept thinking that losing those two tournaments would hurt us, because that’s six games that we didn’t get to play,” she said. “But also, we’re not tired mentally. We’ll see come next week. We’ve got Nettleton on Monday, and that’s a good tune-up game.”