Friday, July 09, 2010

SPORTS>>Cabot Centennial Bank fights way to state

Leader sportswriter

A seven-inning game does not necessarily imply a need for endurance, unless it’s a game with a combined 19 runs, 17 hits and 10 errors.

That’s what North Little Rock had to endure in order to beat Cabot Centennial Bank 11-8 in the American Legion junior Area 3 tournament at Burns Park on Tuesday. The tournament host Optimist Colts took an early 7-1 lead but Cabot came back to tie, and North Little Rock needed a four-run rally in the bottom of the sixth to hand Cabot its first tournament loss.

The Colts went 5-0 through the tournament, including another victory over Cabot on Wednesday, to earn the No. 1 seed in the junior Legion state tournament at Sheridan beginning today.

“Hats off to those guys,” Cabot coach Andy Runyan said. “North Little Rock got clutch hits when they needed clutch hits. We had a chance there in the top of the fifth with two guys getting on to lead off, then we went pop-up, strikeout, strikeout.

“They banged a couple in the gaps, and that’s where they scored their runs.”

Centennial Bank took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning when leadoff hitter Cole Thomas tripled to center field and scored when Conner Vocque hit into a fielder’s choice. The Colts took what appeared to be a commanding 7-1 lead with the help of four Cabot errors in the bottom of the third.

But Cabot made up the deficit in the top of the fifth and held North Little Rock scoreless in the bottom half to enter the sixth tied, and the Colts struck again in the bottom of the inning.

“That’s the thing — you see games like that,” Runyan said. “If you can’t capitalize on the initial push, and then you get down again, it’s really hard to mount a second comeback in a game a lot of times.

“Hats off to our kids being down six and even getting back to a situation where we had a chance to win the ballgame. We didn’t end up on the right side of the scoreboard, but I thought our kids played extremely hard today.”

Cabot’s fifth-inning rally started with a pop-up to right field by No. 8 batter Robert Rankin, but Ryan Logan followed with a double to right.

That brought up the top of Centennial Bank’s order, and Thomas reached on an error.

Vocque beat out an infield single to load the bases and Casey Vaughan drove in the first two runs with a single down the third-base line.

Cleanup hitter Rob White loaded the bases again when he reached on a grounder to Colts shortstop Blake Manning.

North Little Rock starter Darion Lewis walked Kason Kimbrell to make it 7-4 and was replaced on the mound by Drew Potter, who walked James McCraine and Zach Patterson for two more Cabot runs and a 7-6 score.

That forced the Colts into another pitching change. Second baseman Jaleel Tyler relieved Potter, and finally got the second out when he induced Ranking to fly out to center. But Kimbrell tagged up at third and scored the tying run.

Cabot starter Dustin Morris lasted until the bottom of the sixth when Ryan Logan relieved him after Morris gave up a leadoff single to Lewis. Logan then gave up a single, misplayed Wesley Moore’s bunt and gave up another single to load the bases and give the Colts the first of their four runs in the inning.

Cabot got back one of those runs in the top of the seventh when McCraine walked and Patterson drove him in with a single, but Matthew Himstedt, the Colts’ fourth pitcher, shut Cabot down to preserve the victory.

Patterson was 2 for 3 for Cabot with an RBI, while Thomas was 2 for 4 with a triple and Vaughan was 2 for 4 with two RBI.

Manning led North Little Rock, going 2 for 4 with a double.

The loss dropped Centennial Bank into a semifinal matchup with Sylvan Hills. Cabot won that game Wednesday to clinch a state- tournament berth and a rematch with North Little Rock to determine seeding.

The Colts won the rematch to give Cabot the No. 2 seed.

“We were very proud of our boys because of their youth,” Runyan said. “We had a bunch of eighth and ninth-graders in a 17-and-under tournament. We said all along that we were not going to use age as an excuse.

“But it’s part of the maturation process for them to finish top two, so we’re really proud of these guys.”