Tuesday, June 14, 2011

SPORTS >> Centennial ends hot start for Gwatney

Leader sports editor

Cabot’s Centennial Bank senior American Legion team put an abrupt and decisive end to Jacksonville’s undefeated start to the season. Cabot hammered the Gwatney team for nine runs, and pitcher Cole Nicholson made his season debut on the mound, turning in a dominating performance and picking up the shutout Monday night at Brian Conrade Sports Complex in Cabot.

The 9-0 victory pulls Cabot to within a game of Jacksonville in the zone standings, and stopped Gwatney’s season-beginning winning streak at five.

“This was an important win because with five teams in our zone, somebody’s getting a bye in the first round of the zone tournament,” Cabot coach Jay Darr said. “If you’ve got good pitching and have one less game, you have a chance to dominate that tournament.”

Good pitching is something Cabot got a full game’s worth of Monday.

It was Nicholson’s first start for Centennial Bank after deciding late to come out for the Legion team. The graduated Cabot senior earned All State honors this high-school season after picking up nine of Cabot’s 16 wins of the season on the mound.

He showed no signs of a long layoff Monday, going the distance, giving up just two hits while striking out seven and walking just two. He struck out the side in the second inning.

He pitched with little pressure the whole game. Jacksonville’s pitching struggled early. Cabot scored six runs in the first, batting around without getting a hit. Of the first nine batters, four walked and three were hit by pitches while two flew out to right field.

With four runs already on the board and the bases loaded, leadoff hitter Bryson Morris stepped to the plate for the second time in the inning and hit a two-run single to centerfield to cap the huge first inning.

Jacksonville fell behind by 11 runs early last week against Sylvan Hills and came back to win, but with Nicholson’s stuff working on the mound, another comeback was not in the cards.

Cabot got three more runs in the second off reliever Nick Rodriguez. Dustin Morris singled with one out and scored on an RBI double by Andrew Reynolds. Reynolds scored two batters later on a single by Brandon Surdam.

Rodriguez settled in and held Cabot scoreless for the final four innings.

Byrson Morris led Cabot offensively, going 1 for 2, walking twice, driving in three runs, stealing a base and scoring a run.

Reynolds and Surdam also had two RBIs and scored two runs apiece.

Colt Harmon took the loss on the mound for Jacksonville, pitching two thirds of the first inning and giving up six earned runs.

Rodriguez pitched four and a third, giving up five hits and three earned runs while fanning five and walking three.

Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham wasn’t pleased.

“The result says all you need to know,” Hickingbotham said. “We weren’t ready. We didn’t come in here ready to play. When you only have 10, sometimes that’s going to happen because they think they don’t have to worry about anything.”

Cabot and Jacksonville take a break from zone games to begin play in the Sheridan Wooden Bat Classic tonight. That tournament runs through Sunday.

The victory lifts Cabot to 5-4 overall and 4-2 in zone. Jacksonville falls to 5-1 and 4-1.

In the junior game earlier in the evening, Cabot picked up a 15-7 victory in a walk and error-filled game.

Jacksonville jumped on top first with three early runs, but the bottom of the second was the turning point. Glover Helpenstill started the seven-run rally with an infield single. A slow roller by Aaron McKenzie rolled foul, but revealed a flaw in Jacksonville’s defensive scheme. Cabot coach Chris Gross called a bunt on the next pitch and everyone was safe. That led to a two-RBI double by Colby Seigler and the rally was on.

Devin Burke and Landon James added RBI base hits. Soon after, McKenzie and Seigler added their second hits of the inning and were driven in by Drake Boroughs’ single to left field.

Cabot added another run in the third, but Jacksonville made it interesting by cutting the margin to 8-7. But another good inning of Cabot hitting, combined with another bad inning of Jacksonville fielding, led to the wide final margin.

Jacksonville’s junior team has the rest of the week off while Cabot hosts Rosebud Thursday night.