Saturday, May 11, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Big sixth lifts Cabot to victory

Leader sports editor

A three-run home run gave them the lead, and a huge sixth inning sealed the deal for the Lady Panthers, as they hammered Van Buren 11-1 in the first round of the class 7A softball tournament at Springdale High School.

The fourth-seeded Cabot squad scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning, added one more in the second and fourth, then exploded for six in the sixth to end the game on the sportsmanship rule.

The Lady Panthers, who start just one senior and one junior, and the rest of are freshmen and sophomores, entered the tournament with just a .500 record, but Cabot coach Chris Cope said he thought his team was capable of performing well.

“We felt like we had a good chance coming in,” Cope said. “Games with fours vs. fives are usually pretty even. I thought if we played like we’re capable of, we could win the game. But I was a little surprised that we hit the ball that well.”

The first sign of good things to come came in the first inning when freshmen infielder Heather Hill drilled one over the fence in left field with two runners on base. Taylor Anderson had walked and Kaitlyn Thompson had singled to set up Hill’s dinger. The shot gave Cabot a 3-1 lead after falling behind in the opening half inning.

The Lady Pointers took the lead with two base hits and two walks. After the two hits and one walk, Thompson walked a run in. The right-handed sophomore would only allow two more hits the rest of the game and walked no one else. She also finished with five strikeouts.

“She had a rough start but she came back and played a great game for us,” Cope said of his ace hurler. “Not only did she pitch great, she had good at bats for us too.”

Thompson finished the game 2 for 3 with a walk. She also got an RBI in the Lady Panthers’ game-ending rally.

Everyone in the starting lineup got at least one hit, with Anderson going 3 for 5 to lead the way.

“We just did a great job at the plate,” Cope said. “We got several two-out hits, especially in the last inning. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I knew if we hit it well it would give us a really good chance. Our pitching and defense has been pretty good all year, and that continued tonight.”

Erin Eckert stole the show with the glove, snagging two well-hit balls in left field that may have dropped for base hits against other teams.

“She made two outstanding catches for us out there that frankly, saved base hits,” Cope said. “She played extremely well, and Taylor, my only senior starter, did a great job for us behind the plate. She always does.”

The win lifts Cabot to 14-13 on the season.

Two games did not finish due to sudden rain. Springdale Har-Ber was beating Fort Smith Northside 5-0 in the second inning while Conway and Rogers Heritage were tied at zero in the fourth when those games were stopped. Bentonville beat Mount St. Mary’s 10-0 in the other first-round game.