Wednesday, March 28, 2012

SPORTS >> Panthers break losing streak

Leader sportswriter

The skid went to five games total before Cabot wrapped up tournament play in the Central Arkansas Invitational with a 13-2 run-ruled victory over Little Rock Christian Academy late Saturday.

The Panthers (6-6) lost to Central Arkansas Christian 11-4 on Friday and were run ruled 10-0 by Springdale Har-Ber in their first of two Saturday games, but determined not to go through the three-day tourney winless, put together one of their best efforts of the season to down the Warriors. The victory also avenged their first loss of the season in which LRCA won 2-1 at the Jacksonville tournament in early March.

“The tournament in general, boy, it was a good tournament,” Panthers coach Jay Fitch said. “There were a lot of talented teams. Our whole deal, even back to when we played in the Jacksonville tournament is that our bats have been really inconsistent. It’s been a real struggle for us to score runs.

“We’ve really struggled at the plate, and it carried over into this tournament. We shook the lineup up just a bit and let two or three new guys give it a shot. I don’t know if that was the missing ingredient or not, but we’re going to get it figured out.”

The Panthers jumped on Christian early and batted through the lineup in the first inning with eight runs off five hits. Bryson Morris came away with hits during both of his appearances at the plate in the first frame. Morris led off the game with a double and then connected on a RBI single the next time, scoring both times. Tyler Carter drove him in the first time on a RBI single, and Scott Burnett hit a two-RBI double to give the Panthers an early 3-0 lead.

Kason Kimbrell also had a RBI in the first inning, and got Cabot going again in the top of the fourth inning with a double before Carter hit a two-run home run to put the Panthers up 10-0.

“When you’re a young team, you’re going to go through adversity,” Fitch said. “But it’s how strong you are mentally. There’s plenty of talent, but at the same time, it doesn’t take much to shake you up.”

The Warriors scored a run in the bottom of the fourth, but the Panthers turned around and put the game away in the top of the fifth inning with three more runs.

Morris led off with a single once again and advanced on a single by Carter before Casey Vaughn came away with Cabot’s biggest hit of the tournament, a three-run home run to give the Panthers an insurmountable 13-1 lead.

LRCA needed at least three runs to avoid being run ruled in the bottom of the fifth, but only managed one.

At the mound, Hayden Vinson earned the win with a complete-game effort through five innings. Vinson gave up three hits, all singles, while striking out four and walking two batters.

Vaughn was 3 for 3 with a home run while Carter was 3 for 4 with a home run and Morris also went 3 for 4.

Cabot started the tournament with a close 5-4 loss to Vilonia on Thursday, and the two blowouts suffered Friday and early Saturday were even more difficult.

Fitch commended his club for their ability to keep focus and put together the solid win over Little Rock Christian Academy as the Panthers prepared to return to 7A Central Conference action this week.

“I was surprised with how the kids bounced back,” Fitch said. “My big thing is, I mean, you naturally want to win any tournament; you want to bring home that trophy, but the main thing is getting better for conference. We’ve got a little momentum to build on, and we’ve got a tough Conway team coming in on Tuesday.

Then Friday, we get to play a team that a lot of people say will win the state championship in 7A in Little Rock Catholic.”

The Panthers hosted the Wampus Cats Tuesday night after The Leader’s deadlines and will host the Rockets at the Cabot City Baseball Park.