Wednesday, March 27, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers hold off Kickapoo charge

Leader sportswriter

Two costly errors made Cabot’s second round game of the 2013 Central Arkansas Invitational interesting, but Conner Vocque’s run in the seventh allowed the Panthers to escape with a 3-2 victory over Kickapoo, Mo., on Friday at Lamar Porter Field in Little Rock.

Cabot (5-5, 0-2) never trailed in the game, but never led by more than one run. The Panthers led 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning and were one out away from taking that lead into the seventh and final inning. But that was when Cabot committed its only two errors of the game.

Kickapoo’s Ryan Stevens hit a hard, one-hop grounder to shortstop. Cole Thomas fielded it cleanly, but the throw to first was just out of the reach of first baseman Tristan Bulice, and Stevens made it to first base safely.

The inning appeared to be over the next at bat as Hunter Kniepfel hit a high fly ball near first base. AsBulice positioned himself to make the catch, there was confusion between Bulice and second baseman Riley Knudsen as to who called for the ball.

The ball landed between Bulice and Knudsen, and as both players looked at each other in confusion, Stevens scored from second base to tie the game at 2-2. Stevens advanced to second on a stolen base while Kniepfel was at the plate.

“We had a sophomore (Bulice) over there at first base,” said Cabot coach Jay Fitch. “He called it initially is what happened. Our second baseman comes in and says ‘bull, bull’. His (Bulice) nickname is bull. Our lingo for that is, and this is what we work on, when you want the ball, you call ‘ball, ball.’

“If not, it’s ‘take it, take it, take it.’ So that way it sounds nothing like it. But ball and bull, the sophomore thinks he’s being called off the ball. So we let it drop, but our defense was a lot better today. It was pretty crisp up until there at the end.”

Fortunately for the Panthers, they got a run when they needed it the most. Vocque, Cabot’s junior centerfielder, led off the top of the seventh with a line-drive single to left centerfield.

Vocque then got in scoring position by stealing second base with leadoff hitter Ryan Logan at the plate with no outs.

Logan advanced Vocque over to third with a sacrifice fly to deep centerfield. Bulice then came to the plate and hit a bloop single to right field to drive in Vocque and set the final score. The Chiefs (1-3) went three up, three down in the bottom of the seventh to end the game.

Junior Kason Kimbrell got the win on the mound for Cabot. He pitched two full innings with two strikeouts, no walks and no hits. Cabot’s two errors in the sixth negated Chipper Morris’s chance to get the win as he threw a one-hitter in five innings of work. He struck out eight batters, walked three and gave up just one run.

“I was really proud of our pitching effort,” Fitch said. “Chipper, he’s a senior pitcher. Again, we don’t have anyone that’s going to blow anybody away. But he knows how to pitch. His curveball, and he was dropping down a little bit today, so he was giving them different looks that kept them off balance.”

Cabot totaled seven hits in the game. Vocque and Casey Vaughan each had two hits, while Coleman McAtee, Knudsen and Bulice had a hit apiece. Chase Marable doubled to left centerfield in the third inning for Kickapoo’s only hit.

The Panthers return to 7A/6A East Conference play today as they host Marion in a doubleheader at the Cabot Baseball Complex. The first part of the twin bill starts at 4 p.m.