Tuesday, April 17, 2012

SPORTS >> Searcy rallies to beat Cabot

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers dropped a nonconference baseball game Monday at Searcy, losing 8-2 to the Lions. Timely hitting and excellent defense lifted Searcy to the victory. The loss came three days after the Panthers snapped a seven-game conference losing streak. On Friday Cabot beat Van Buren 4-3 to get its first win in 7A Central play.

“We did some really good things against Van Buren,” Cabot coach Jay Fitch said after the Searcy game. “We have a couple of players that are starting to hit the ball pretty good. But we’re just playing so-so baseball right now. You can see we made some errors in this game and we’re still not getting the sticks working up and down the lineup like we need to.”

In Monday’s game, Cabot grabbed an early lead with a run in the top of the first inning. Cole Thomas walked with one out and scored two batters later on a double off the wall in centerfield by Casey Vaughan. The knock should’ve been a triple but Vaughan lost his footing rounding second base and had to retreat back to the bag.

Searcy put runners at second and third with one out in the bottom of the first but failed to produce any runs.

Searcy’s Conner Carlisle led off with a double that also should have been a triple, but he tripped at second base. Cabot pitcher Cason Kimbrellthen struck out Corey Webb be-fore walking Reed Haggard. The runners advanced on a passed ball, but Kimbrell fanned Brandon Zomant and Joey Davis to end the threat and strike out the side.

The Lions tied it in the bottom of the second. After Kimbrell’s third-straight strikeout put away Jay Bona, Justin Holtz singled to left field. He advanced to second when the throw back to the infield was fielded by no one. Will Dunavan bunted back to Kimbrell, which caught Holtz between second and third.

Kimbrell’s throw to second wasn’t in time and left everyone safe. Kimbrell got his fifth strikeout in two innings when he fanned nine-hole hitter Colby Crossen, but gave up an RBI single to Carlisle. The hit was also the last at bat of the inning. After a throw to home was not in time to get Holtz, Cabot catcher T.C. Carter threw to third and Justin Goffe applied the tag to get Dunavan trying to sneak an extra base.

Searcy took control of the game in third with four runs, three on one swing. Webb led off with a walk and Haggard flew out to left field.

Zomant grounded to short, but the throw got by first base, leaving everyone safe. Joey Davis then walked to load the bases and Bona tripled to centerfield to score three runs. Holtz then hit a fly ball to centerfield that was deep enough to score Bona. Dunavan then walked, but was thrown out on the base paths for the second time when he was caught stealing.

Cabot’s final run came in the top of the fourth. Scott Burnett reached on an error at second base and Bryson Morris singled to right field to bring him home.

The Panthers got just two base runners in the final three innings, an infield single by Thomas and a walk by Burnett, who reached base on all three at bats without getting a hit.

Searcy got its final three runs in the bottom of the fifth off relief pitcher Zach Patterson.

The Lions led off with a single and a bunt single, then loaded the bases on an error by Patterson on another bunt attempt. Holtz then walked to bring home one run.

Dunavan hit a sacrifice grounder to second and Crossen hit a sacrifice fly to center to set the final margin. Cabot got just four hits, but had 11 base runners in the game. The Panthers drew six walks and Searcy committed one error, but they left seven runners on base.

“We showed pretty good discipline at the plate,” Fitch said. “We walked a lot. We’re just not getting that timely base hit.”

Fitch’s team did get that timely hit in Friday’s victory. Vaughan, who went 2 for 3 with two doubles against Searcy, came up huge on Friday.

The Panthers and Pointers were tied at three when Vaughan hit what turned out to be the game-winning home run in the bottom of the fifth.

“He’s swinging it really well right now,” Fitch said of Vaughan. “He had two doubles today and had that big hit against Van Buren. That’s proof that if you keep plugging away good things can happen. He hasn’t been swinging like this all year. Hopefully we’ll have some other guys that’ll find that swing and get things going for us.”

Cabot 4, Van Buren 3

Friday’s game wasn’t without some controversy. Trailing 3-0 in the third with runners on first and second, Van Buren hit a looping line drive down the first base line.

The ball landed fair, but rolled under the fence on the baseline in right field. Vaughan threw his arms up to indicate the ball was out of play, but the umpire made no call. Vaughan then reached underneath the fence and managed to retrieve the ball.

By the time his throw came in, it was an inside-the-park home run. After some objection by Fitch, the call was changed to a ground-rule double and only one run was allowed. That brought objection from the Van Buren coach and a long delay ensued. Cabot won the argument, but Van Buren got the runs across anyway.

On the next at bat, a dink hit to shallow left field scored both base runners to tie the game, setting up Vaughan’s game winner in the fifth.

Junior pitcher Chipper Morris was outstanding on the mound. The two hits in the third were the only ones he allowed in seven innings of work. He also struck out 13 Pointers while walking three.

Cabot (7-13, 1-7) has two conference road games later this week on successive days. The Panthers travel to first-place Russellville on Thursday, then take on Conway on Friday.