Friday, March 29, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Panther baseball on a roll

Leader sports editor

Recent games suggested a tough night for Cabot baseball on Tuesday, but the Panthers put forth their best effort of the season in easily dispatching Marion for an important doubleheader sweep at CHS. Cabot swept the early 7A/6A East Conference matchup by scores of 7-1 and 12-2, and they did it without one of their top two pitchers.

“We beat Jacksonville twice and we barely got by them both times,” Cabot coach Jay Fitch said. “Then Marion smoked them pretty good up at the Jonesboro tournament. So we were a little worried about their hitting coming in here, especially with one of our starting pitchers. We figured out pretty early they struggled a little bit with the breaking stuff, and that’s right down Ryan Logan’s alley.”

Logan started game one on the mound for Cabot and dominated the Patriots’ lineup. He gave up just three hits and one unearned run. He only struck out three and walked two, but Cabot got out of every jam by turning four double plays.

“I don’t know if we’ve turned four double plays all season,” Fitch said. “We had one error the whole night and turned I think five double plays total. So our defensive execution was as good as it’s been all year.”

Zach Patterson took the mound in game two and got stronger as the game wore on. He also gave up three hits and got into a little trouble in the third inning, but otherwise dominated the Patriots. He finished with 10 strikeouts and just three walks.

“I was a little worried about Zach against this team because they hit the fastball so well,” Fitch said. “Zach is our hardest thrower, but this team likes that. Tonight he had his curveball working pretty good too and when he does that, he can be phenomenal. We need to see more consistency from him, but tonight was a great start. If he can start giving us that on a more consistent basis, he can be outstanding.”

Neither team scored in the first two innings of game two, but Cabot jumped on Marion for five in the top of the third. Catcher Brent Dean started the inning by getting plunked by a pitch, but his courtesy runner was thrown out on a force play at third base.

Cole Thomas, who singled, and leadoff hitter Conner Vocque, who reached on the fielder’s choice that put out Dean, both scored on a two-RBI single by Logan. Casey Vaughan followed that with a double in the gap to left-centerfield that scored Logan. Riley Knudsen walked and Coleman McAtee drove in Vaughan with a single to left. Knudsen scored the fifth run of the frame when Kason Kimbrell’s pop up to shallow right field was dropped.

Marion put together a two-out, two-run rally in the bottom of the third. Leadoff hitter Zach Morris and Caleb Marconi drew back-to-back walks. Drake Knowton then singled to score Morris and moved to second when the throw from the outfield went to home plate.

Cleanup hitter Bailey Burford also singled to centerfield to score Marconi. Knowton also tried to score on the play, but Vaughan’s throw to home plate got him for the third out.

Thomas got another five-run rally going for Cabot in the top of the fourth by singling to right field. Vocque and Logan followed with singles and Vaughan walked to score Thomas. Knudsen flew out to right field, but his shot was deep enough to score Vocque from third. McAtee walked to load the bases. Kimbrell then hit a comebacker to the pitcher that got Logan thrown out on a force play at home for the second out. Grason Cole then singled down the right field line to drive in two runs, and Dean doubled to score Kimbrell and make the score 10-2.

Patterson’s last two innings were identical, a groundout followed by two strikeouts. Meanwhile Cabot added the two runs needed to end the game early, one in the fifth and one in the sixth. Logan doubled down the left-field line with one out and moved to third on a grounder to first by Vaughan. He then scored on a wild pitch.

The last run came when Vocque singled to drive in Cole, who beat out a grounder to shortstop for a single.

On Thursday, Cabot knocked off Pulaski Academy 4-3. Sophomore Gavin Tillery started the game and threw well for three innings. He left with the score tied and got a no decision. Knudsen pitched the final three innings and picked up the win.

The three wins this week runs Cabot’s winning streak to four games, and leaves them 8-5 overall and 2-2 in league play. The Panthers travel to Mountain Home for another conference doubleheader on Tuesday.