Friday, March 23, 2012

SPORTS >> Cabot helps Vilonia, loses third straight

Leader sportswriter

BENTON – A southpaw showdown phased into a right-handed revival as Vilonia edged Cabot 5-4 in the opening round of the Central Arkansas Invitational tournament at Benton High School on Thursday.

Lefties Hayden Weaver and Ryan Logan led their respective teams through the first half of the game with Weaver earning the win for the Eagles through four and two-third innings worth of work before giving way to a shaky Sam Woody, whose awkward sidearm style put Vilonia’s defense in some precarious situations down the stretch.

But the Eagle gloves came up with a number of game-saving plays to work their way out of the jams, while starting left fielder Brian Ayers closed it down on the mound for Vilonia in the top of the seventh inning.

“Right before the game, I told the kids we had to have a complete seven innings at all three phases of the game,” Cabot coach Jay Fitch said. “And we were just real hit and miss. We had the one little circus inning where they scored three runs, and we threw it around. And Vilonia’s a good team – you can’t do that kind of stuff against good-hitting teams.”

The Eagles took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the second inning when Cody Earnhart doubled to left field, driving in cleanup hitter Ayers and Nathan Taylor before an error at third allowed Mason Hoffnagle to come home for the go-ahead score. Cabot (5-4) tied the game in the top of the third and again in the fourth, but a RBI single from Tanner Fougurusse in the bottom of the fifth inning provided Vilonia with the winning run by nine-hole hitter Drew Estes.

The Eagles threatened to add to their lead in the bottom of the sixth with bases loaded and two outs, but Logan struck out Hoffnagle to give the Panthers one last chance to make up the one-run deficit.

“We’ve been struggling with the timely hit,” Fitch said. “Our sticks came around a little bit today, it looked a little better. It was our defense that let us down, and that’s the third game that Ryan Logan has lost by one run. He’s like 1-3, and probably the best pitcher we’ve got. We’ve got to give him some more run support and some more defensive play.”

Woody’s time on the mound started unceremoniously as he hit Panthers catcher and three-hole T.C. Carter with a pitch before committing a fielding error on a bunt by Justin Goff to put runners at second and third with two outs, but Vilonia first baseman Hunter Henderson persevered the lead for the Eagles with an unassisted play to retire the side.

Woody also hit Casey Vaughn with a pitch to start the sixth inning before Vilonia right fielder Hoffnagle turned an incredible double play when he caught Chipper Morris’ pop-up and made a flawless throw to Earnhart at third for the tag on Vaughn, who had reached second on a steal.

“Our sticks, I keep going back to our sticks when they bring those new pitchers in,” Fitch said. “Nothing was overpowering, and we did okay, but we’ve got to put back-to-back hits in. And we made a couple of errors on the bases and stuff, too, and we just have to improve in all phases of the game.”

Cabot took the initial lead in the top of the first a double by Carter, followed by a RBI double to right field by Goff, who later scored on an errant throw to third by Eagles catcher Nathan Taylor.

Kason Kimbrell doubled with a fly to left to start the third inning and was sent home two batters later with a groundout to shortstop by Goff to tie the game at 3-3. Vaughn put Cabot’s final run on base to lead off the top of the fourth with a double and scored when Vilonia shortstop Estes mishandled a hopper from DH Hayden Vincent. Vincent tried to put himself in position by taking two but was tagged at second before Logan grounded out to shortstop.

Logan made it through five innings before right-hander Kyle Kauffman came in relief in the bottom of the sixth, striking out two and forcing a groundout to shortstop by Estes.

Carter singled in the top of the seventh with two outs and made his way to second on a wild pitch, but Ayers got Goff swinging for the final out.

Vaughn was 2 for 2 with a double while Carter was 2 for 3 with a double. Goff was 1 for 3 with a double and two RBI.

For Vilonia, Ayers was 3 for 3 with a RBI while Earnhart was 1 for 3 with a double and two RBI. Cabot scored four runs on seven hits and committed three errors while the Eagles scored five runs on eight hits and had four errors.

Weaver earned the win, giving up five hits while striking out four batters. Cabot ace Logan fell to 1-3 on the season after giving up seven hits and striking out seven batters.

The Panthers finished the CAI tourney yesterday with an early game against Central Arkansas Christian in the consolation bracket and an afternoon game.