Friday, May 03, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers in state with win

Leader sportswriter

The Searcy Lions handed Cabot a 7-2 loss in the first game of the 7A/6A East Conference doubleheader finale on Tuesday, but the Panthers responded in game two with a 4-2 win at the Searcy baseball field, which put them in good position to make a return to the class 7A state playoffs.

“We have to see how things play out, but I think eight wins will put us out of reach to get in,” said Cabot coach Jay Fitch. “I don’t know what seed we’ll be. It’ll be four, five or six.”

Searcy (8-14, 5-8) jumped on Cabot left-hander Ryan Logan early in the first game, and held on down the stretch to get the 7-2 win. The Lions started the second game much like they did the first, scoring two runs in the first inning to take an early lead.

“I tell you what, the report on Searcy, everybody I’ve talked to said they’re kind of so-so on their sticks, but they swung the bats tonight,” Fitch said.

Cabot (16-11, 8-6) had its chances to capitalize, as it had the bases loaded at some point in each of the first three innings, but could only manage one run. The Panthers left a total of seven runners stranded during that time.

“In this game we left the bases loaded in the first, second and third inning, and got one run out of all that,” Fitch said. “I mean we’re one or two hits away from blowing this game smooth open, but could not get the timely hit. That’s frustrating, but we did enough to pull it out.”

The Panthers took the lead for the first time in the fourth inning with two runs on a two-out rally. Leadoff hitter Conner Vocque walked with one out in the inning and stole second base with Logan at the plate. Logan flew out his at bat for the second out of the inning, and three-hole hitter Casey Vaughan followed with a walk.

Cleanup hitter Riley Knudsen came through for Cabot the next at bat with a single to left centerfield, his second of the game. Vocque scored with ease and Vaughan crossed the plate on a single to left field by first baseman Kason Kimbrell, which gave the Panthers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Cabot scored its final run in the sixth inning. Vocque led off the inning with an infield single to shortstop, and advanced all the way to third base on the play after consecutive throwing errors by the Searcy infield.

The poor play continued for Searcy as Vocque scored two-pitches later on a passed ball at home late. The Lions made it interesting in the seventh inning as they had runners on first and second base with two outs.

Searcy cleanup hitter Zach Anderson was at the plate with a full count, but Cabot closer Chipper Morris struck him out swinging to secure the win for the Panthers. Morris relieved winning pitcher Zach Patterson in the seventh inning. Patterson gave up two runs, two walks and recorded nine strike outs in his six innings of work.

“Fortunately our big junior, Zach Patterson, I’m so proud of him tonight,” Fitch said. “He threw a great game. He ended up getting around 100 pitches and I knew we were coming through their lineup again, so I wanted to give them a different look. That was big for us getting Dustin (Chipper) Morris back.

“At the beginning of the season he was probably our No. 1 (pitcher), and we didn’t have him all conference, but we’ve got him back now. He can come in and throw strikes and get outs.”

Cabot outhit Searcy 10-7 in game two. Vocque and Knudsen had two hits apiece, while Logan, Kimbrell, Gray-son Cole, Coleman McAtee, Brent Dean and Cole Thomas each had a hit.