Tuesday, July 13, 2010

SPORTS>>Cabot advances to quarterfinals

Leader sportswriter

SHERIDAN — Two innings were the longest Cabot could extend its season against a tough Texarkana team.

Texarkana beat Cabot Centennial Bank 5-3 in the quarterfinals of the American Legion junior state tournament Monday.

Centennial Bank rallied once to tie the junior Razorbacks 3-3 in the bottom of the seventh and force extra innings at Oliver Williams Field. But when Texarkana capitalized on a pair of Cabot errors in the top of the ninth to add two more runs, it was enough to advance to the semifinals.

It was Cabot’s second loss of the double-elimination tournament after an opening-day setback to the host Sheridan Yellowjackets on Saturday and a comeback triumph over North Little Rock on Sunday.

“We said we were going to be aggressive all year, and the kids bought into that,” Andy Runyan said after his final game as a Cabot baseball coach. “I was extremely proud of how they played. And even though we turned out on the wrong side of it tonight, I couldn’t be more proud of a bunch of 14- and 15-year-old kids.”

Texarkana had two outs and two on in the top of the ninth when Blake Sullivan hit a grounder to Casey Vaughan at third base.

Vaughan’s throw to first was just out of first baseman James McCraine’s reach and allowed both runners to score.

Vaughan’s chance at redemption at the plate in the bottom of the ninth ended in a double play after Dylan Wilson led off the inning with a single.

“It’s one of those things where you go back and there were probably 10 different plays in that game in the end that could have teetered the game one way or the other,” Runyan said. “Go back to the first inning — I got Cole Thomas picked off of first base on a steal, you know, that’s something as a coach that you look at and wish you could have back.”

Cabot (19-11) got itself back in the game in the bottom of the seventh inning when Cole Thomas led off with a walk and Wilson advanced him to third with a double down the third-base line. Cleanup hitter Rob White singled to left to score Thomas and make it 3-2 before Wilson scored the tying run when Ryan Logan hit into a fielder’s choice.

Logan beat the throw to first to stay out of a game-ending double play.

Both teams relied on defense through the first six innings.

Texarkana held a 1-0 lead after first baseman Brett Reinhart smashed Kason Kimbrell’s first pitch of the second inning over the right field wall. It was one of few hiccups for Kimbrell, who held the Razorbacks scoreless from that point until the top of the seventh when he began to show fatigue.

Kimbrell walked Jared Brown and gave up two straight singles and a run that made it 2-1. That led to Dustin Morris to relieve Kimbrell.

Morris retired one batter but gave up an RBI single to Justin House for the two-run lead.

Cabot tied it for the first time in the bottom of the fifth.

Wilson reached on an infield single when he stunned Texarkana pitcher Blake Sullivan with a line drive up the middle. Vaughan advanced Wilson with a single bloop to left and White drove him in with a single up the middle.

Wilson was 5 for 5 with a double and four singles. White was 2 for 5 with two RBI. For Texarkana, House was 3 for 5 with an RBI while Jacob Kirkland and Chase Sealy were both 2 for 4 with an RBI for Sealy.

“We said all year, kind of as a coaching point, that we weren’t going to use youth as an excuse,” Runyan said. “We had a bunch of ninth and tenth-graders-to-be playing in a 17-under league against a bunch of juniors and seniors, so for them to finish eight games above .500, finish top two in the zone and make it to the quarterfinals of the state tournament and be one of the last six teams standing in the state, those guys don’t have anything to hang their heads about.

“They’ve accomplished a lot for a young group this year.”