Tuesday, May 10, 2011

SPORTS >> Pointers frustrate Panthers with sweep

Leader sportswriter

Tyler Spoon and Dylan Reese teamed up to give Cabot fits on Friday’s senior night doubleheader at Conrade Field.

Spoon, Van Buren’s senior ace and Arkansas signee, threw a two-hitter in a 3-0 victory in Game 1 and Reese capped it off with a complete game in the nightcap as Van Buren completed the sweep with a 3-2 victory.

The 7A-Central Conference losses dropped the Panthers to the No. 5 seed for the 7A state tournament at Fort Smith starting Friday.

Van Buren led 3-0 in the bottom of the seventh when Reese hit Cabot senior and Game 2 starter Cole Nicholson in the helmet.

Nicholson, frustrated by the Game 1 loss and a number of errors behind him in Game 2, threw his bat and took a couple steps toward Reese. Umpires stepped in and defused the situation, and the hit batsman led to the first of Cabot’s two runs.

“I told him that there was no way that kid did that on purpose,” Cabot coach Jay Fitch said. “He didn’t hit well in the first game, and, of course, that carried over into the second game. If you look at those runs, I think all three were unearned — I know two of them were.

“He’s playing with a young defense. He’s done a great job all year of keeping his composure.”

Errors at shortstop set up all of Van Buren’s scoring opportunities in the second game. Nicholson starts at short when he’s not on the mound, leaving a hole to fill on defense when he gets a start.

Game 2 shortstop Cole Thomas, a sophomore, missed a grounder by Zack Wilhite that scored Spoon in the top of the third inning to make it 1-0. Hayden Vinson, a freshman, took Thomas’ place in the top of the fourth, and committed an error that allowed Quenten Ray to reach.

Ray scored two batters later on a one-out single by No. 9 hitter Paul Schneider.

Vinson had another mishap in the top of the seventh on a grounder by Spoon that led to Van Buren’s winning run.

“Both of them are good athletes,” Fitch said of Thomas and Vincent. “But we’ve got to get that figured out before Friday. We’ve got to find somebody who can make the routine play at shortstop when Cole’s pitching.

“I don’t know if we’ll change anything or not, but we can’t give up runs like that.”

Reese began to tire in the seventh. He hit Nicholson and then walked Jarred Wilson to put runners at first and second.

Tyler Cole drove in the first with a single to the right field corner and Daniel Fox scored Wilson with a sacrifice bunt. With two out and no runners on, Reese finished the game by getting leadoff hitter Bryson Morris to ground out to short.

Ray was 2 for 2 with a run for Van Buren while Spoon was 2 for 3 with a run and Brant Ramsey was 2 for 4. For Cabot, Tyler Carter was 2 for 3 with a double.

The opportunities were even fewer for the Panthers in the first game, as Spoon dominated the last five innings after recovering from a sluggish start.

In the bottom of the second Spoon walked Brandon Surdam, hit Nicholson and gave up another walk to Cole with one out.

But the Pointers recovered when Spoon fielded Casey Vaughan’s dribbler back to the mound and threw to catcher Cameron Bambridge to get Surdam at the plate. Nicholson overran third and Bambridge made a quick throw to the third baseman Ray, who tagged Nicholson to retire the side.

“There wasn’t any reason to round third like that,” Fitch said. “I was pointing at the bag when he got there; I don’t know if he didn’t see me or what really happened, but their catcher made a heads-up play. They made us pay for that.

“One hit and we could have scored. That was frustrating.”

Despite giving up four walks and hitting one batter, Spoon was still holding on to a no-hitter until the bottom of the sixth, when Morris worked the count full before singling to left. Justin Goff got Cabot’s other hit with a hopper to shortstop he beat out for an infield single in the seventh.

“We’ve seen him the last couple of years,” Fitch said of Spoon. “He’s good — not just an overpowering fastball, but he got plenty from his curveball. He kept us off balance.”

Ryan Logan started for Cabot and Dustin Morris relieved him in the sixth.