Friday, July 30, 2010

SPORTS>>Benton stops Cabot, ends state run

Leader sports editor

It was a bad time to have a losing streak.

Cabot Centennial Bank bowed out of the Senior American Legion State Tournament as Benton held on for a 4-3 victory at DeSalvo Stadium in Burns Park on Tuesday.

Cabot, which tore undefeated through district play and won its first two games of the state tournament, squandered a quality start by Chase Beasley as it committed five errors and stranded eight runners in losing its second straight in the double-elimination tournament.

“We’ve been playing excellent defense for most of the year,” Cabot coach Jay Darr said. “It’s just one of those days the defense kind of let us down and the hitting didn’t really show up.”

It was the second straight loss for Cabot, which dropped a game to Texarkana on Sunday to fall into the losers bracket, then endured Monday’s rainout before getting back onto the field against Benton.

“I think the kids came out, the second half of the year for sure, determined to make a run,” Darr said. “And they did everything they set out to do. You get to a point where somebody has got to lose and today and Sunday was our turn. We just didn’t get it done.”

Beasley went the distance, striking out nine and giving up his first and only walk in the ninth inning. But Benton, fighting its way through the losers bracket after an opening-round loss to Cabot, got revenge, breaking a 2-2 tie in the sixth and staying a step ahead the rest of the way.

“After an extra day’s rest I thought our pitching was going to be solid,” Darr said. “I was really only expecting Chase to get me into the fifth and sixth and then I had some other fresh guys to come in. But you couldn’t ask a kid to do any better than what he did; we just didn’t play defense behind him and didn’t hit the baseball today.”

Coy Fitzhugh pitched 4 1/3 innings and left with a 4-2 lead in the sixth, and Nathan Birl, who inherited and escaped a bases-loaded jam in the inning, went the rest of the way for Benton.

“We played them the first game and it was 10-7 and we left the bases loaded twice in that game and it could have gone either way,” Benton coach Russell Goodwin said.

Benton opened the scoring with a two-run third featuring a double by Steven Brooks, a single by Ashton Wilson and an RBI grounder by Drew McCurry, who was safe when second baseman Tyler Erickson committed a fielding error that allowed Wilson to score the second run from second.

Cabot got a run back in the bottom of the third when Joe Bryant reached on an error by first baseman Lee Richardson, advanced to third on Ty Steele’s single to right and scored on a double steal to cut it to 2-1.

Cabot silenced Benton in the top of the fourth — with shortstop Matt Evans making a diving stop and the assist on Josh Creel’s sharp grounder for the final out — then tied it in the bottom half. Erickson walked, advanced when Fitzhugh hit Andrew Reynolds and scored from second on Justin Tyler’s hopper over third for a double.

McCurry reached on Evans’ fielding error to lead off the Benton sixth, Austin Pfeiffer followed him with a single and Blake Childress got down a sacrifice to advance both runners.

McCurry alertly tagged and scored from third when the third baseman Steele tracked down a difficult pop foul near the stands. Creel then singled to score Pfeiffer and make it 4-2.

Cabot threatened but came up empty in the sixth.

Erickson walked and Reynolds and Justin Goff singled to load the bases with one out. Birl came on to relieve Fitzhugh and struck out Justin Tyler and got Powell Bryant to ground out to end the threat.

“They brought in the little changeup guy and it kept us off balance just enough,” Darr said.

“We outhit them today but we didn’t get the hits when we needed to.”

Erickson tripled with one out in the Cabot eighth and scored on Reynolds’ groundout to make it 4-3, but Goff was stranded at first after reaching on an error.