Friday, March 22, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Rockets power past Cabot

Leader sportswriter

Cabot got off to a tremendous start in the opening round of the 2013 Central Arkansas Invitational baseball tournament, but late mistakes and Little Rock Catholic’s superb hitting was too much for the Panthers to handle down the stretch as the Rockets won 12-5 Thursday at Lamar Porter Field in Little Rock.

“They hit it well,” said Cabot coach Jay Fitch about Little Rock Catholic, the No. 7 ranked team in the state. “We saw where they had beaten Conway like 14-4, so we knew they had some sticks. They’ve beat some pretty good teams. So we knew they were good and that we’d have to play well.

“We came out hitting it like we want to. The deal is great teams do the right things consistently. We looked good early and then what we’ve been having a bad problem with is just taking good pitches that we should be hitting. The ones that we swung at we just either missed or just didn’t hit with authority, and they (Catholic) came back and smashed the baseball.”

The Panthers’ first four hitters reached base safely to start the game, and at the end of the first inning they led 3-1. Junior second baseman and cleanup hitter Riley Knudsen drove in Cabot’s first run with a RBI-single to centerfield.

Pinch runner Lee Sullivan scored on the play as he subbed in for leadoff hitter Ryan Logan, who started things off with a standup double down the first base line. Three-hole hitter Casey Vaughan scored Cabot’s second run as designated hitter Tristan Bulice was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

Grayson Cole drove in the third Panther run two-batters later with a RBI-single to right centerfield. Unfortunately for Cabot (4-5, 0-2), the lead didn’t last long. Catholic (6-2, 2-1) scored seven unanswered runs to lead 7-3 by the end of the fourth inning.

The Rockets grabbed theirfirst lead in the bottom of the third with a two-out single by second baseman Jonathan Lanehart that put the home team up 4-3. Matt Himstedt and Josh Cissell scored on the play.

Cissell scored again in the fourth as he hit a towering two-run home run over the wall in left centerfield to give Catholic the 7-3 lead. Vaughan cut the Rockets’ lead to two in the top of the fifth with a two-run homer of his own that also landed behind the left centerfield wall. Logan scored on the play as he walked to start the inning.

Catholic pushed its lead to 8-5 in the bottom part of the inning on a grounder to first base by leadoff hitter Justin Weigle. Zach Sokora scored from third on the groundout, and the Rockets put the game out of reach in the sixth with a four-run inning that was the result of timely hits and two costly errors by the Panther infield.

Sokora scored the final run on a passed ball at home plate with two outs in the sixth. Catholic outhit Cabot 13-7. Both teams committed four errors in the game. The majority of Cabot’s errors came late as the Rockets began piling on runs.

“Hats off to them,” Fitch said of Catholic. “They swung it well. We did a good job defensively at times, but then we had times where we just kind of fell apart. We just have to be consistent with the sticks and play defense.”

Andrew Mashburn earned the win on the mound for Catholic. He pitched five full innings and was on the hill for all five of Cabot’s runs. The Panthers didn’t get a single hit after Mashburn left the game.

The Rockets had four different players with multiple hits. Cole Boardman led the way with a 3 for 4 performance at the plate. Vaughan was the only Panther with multiple hits. He had two. Logan, Knudsen, Bulice, Cole and Chipper Morris each had a hit for Cabot.

Cabot was set to play Kickapoo, Mo. at 5 p.m. Thursday in the loser’s bracket of the tournament, but the game was called because of inclement weather. The Panthers will wrap up the tournament on Saturday before resuming 7A/6A East Conference play Wednesday at home against Marion in a doubleheader. The first part of the twin bill starts at 4 p.m.