Monday, April 15, 2013

SPORTS >> Cabot shocks Tigers, sweeps

Leader sportswriter

It was an epic ten-inning battle followed by a not-so-epic walk fest, but at the end of the night, both games were close victories for Cabot as the Panthers turned their 7A/6A East Conference season around with 6-5 and 11-9 wins over visiting Little Rock Central on Tuesday.

The opener went almost four hours as the Panthers finally pulled out the victory in the bottom of the tenth inning with a single up the middle by Kason Kimbrell that scored Ryan Logan and Landon James, while the Panthers had to hold off a rallying Central team in the bottom of the seventh inning of the nightcap. Cabot led 11-5 heading into the final frame and went through three pitchers to finally put their guests away.

“I’m really proud of how the kids stepped up,” Panthers coach Jay Fitch said. “We were basically playing without four of our starters, so we had some young kids step up and play really well against what is probably one of the best pitching staffs in the state. The second game was a crazy game. That is one of the tightest strike zones I have ever seen in high-school baseball. We had twenty-plus walks in that one.”

The first game ended in a 3-3 tie through seven innings to force the game to continue into extra innings. Theo Mitchell singled and then scored for Central in the top of the eighth, but the Panthers answered in the bottom of the eighth as Logan walked and later scored on a double to deep centerfield by Riley Knudsen, who eventually took the win on the mound after relieving Adam Hicks, who took over for starter Logan in regulation.

No one scored in the ninth, and it looked as if Central took over momentum in the top of the tenth when Tigers junior and Vanderbilt commit Joey Abraham cranked a solo home-run shot over the left field wall to give Central a 5-4 lead.

“There at the end, one of the best players in the state hits a humongous home run,” Fitch said. “So, for a team that’s still a fairly young team to come out there and respond was huge. We were able to load the bases, and Kason Kimbrell has been swinging good the last couple of weeks. We knew it was going to be close at the plate, so I told them that if it was close, I was sending them so be ready.”

Logan led off the bottom of the tenth with a single to left, and advanced on a walk for Knudsen. James came in as a courtesy runner for Knudsen, and Coleman McAtee loaded the bases when he beat the throw to first from shortstop on a grounder. That put Kimbrell up with bases loaded and one out, and Kimbrell came through with a ripper between second and shortstop, as Fitch sent both Logan and James in. James reached home in plenty of time to beat the throw from left three hours and 40 minutes after the game started.

The victories improved the Panthers’ record to 10-9 overall and 4-4 in the 7A/6A East Conference. Fitch said the big wins could help his team build momentum with the final stretch of league play just ahead.

“That’s what we’re hoping,” Fitch said. “What I want to do is challenge the younger players. We really want to be consistent, and obviously, we want to finish as high as we can in conference, because anything can happen once you reach state.”

Cabot hosted Beebe in nonconference action last night after Leader deadlines.