Monday, June 17, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot seniors swinging away

Leader sports editor

Cabot’s senior American Legion team may consider using wood bats all summer. In the Centennial Bank team’s opening game of the People’s Bank Wood Bat Classic in Sheridan, the Panthers got 22 base hits in a 21-13 win over Pine Bluff-Relyance Bank.

In the second game on Thursday, Cabot beat the host team 7-5 and will enter today’s bracket play as one of the top seeds.

“We are starting to swing the bats a lot better and we expected that,” said Cabot coach Cody Whitworth. “These kids have swung the bats well their whole careers, so we knew it was just a matter of time before that came around. We’re basically full strength now, we have guys in their right positions, and we’re playing a lot better.”

Against Sheridan, Cabot jumped out to a 7-0 lead with a six-run second inning. It started with Grayson Cole getting hit square in the back with the first pitch of the inning. Adam Hicks put down a sacrifice bunt to move him to second and Chris Odom singled to put runners on the corners. Hayden Vinson hit a sacrifice grounder to second base to score Cole and start the two-out rally. Leadoff hitter Conner Vocque took a hanging curveball to the back as well to put two runners on base. Starting pitcher Bryson Morris then hit a ball between shortstop and third that was fielded cleanly, but the throw was not in time and high.

Both base runners scored with Morris getting credit for one RBI. Casey Vaughan then hit a hard line drive into the power alley in left-centerfield, good for a stand-up triple and an RBI, but the relay throw to third sailed into the Sheridan dugout, giving Vaughan an easy trot home to make it 6-0. With the bases clear, Coleman McAtee singled to right field and Ryan Logan doubled to the same area to drive in the final Cabot run of the game.

From that point, the Panthers held off a late rally by the Yellowjackets. Morris threw four innings and got the win on the mound, giving up two hits and four walks while striking out five. Kyle Kaufman replaced him and ran into some trouble.

Sheridan scored three runs in the fifth inning and two in the sixth. The five runs coming courtesy of five hits, four walks and an error.

With Sheridan submarine pitcher Wyatt Daggett settled in and keeping Cabot’s bats at bay the rest of the way, Whitworth went to ace  Logan to close things out in the seventh inning. Logan had to battle with runners on the corners and one out, but he struck out Ramsey Keaton and Bibb Brady to seal the deal for the Panthers.

“We were up 7-0 and I would’ve like for us to gone ahead and finished it in the fifth inning,” Whitworth said. “It’s just an eight-after-five rule in this tournament. We had a great opportunity by getting our leadoff man on, we just didn’t close it out. That was the only thing. You always want to save as much pitching as you can, especially in a tournament, but overall I’m very pleased. We are playing fairly well right now and I think it’s going to get better.”

When you add Wednesday’s statistics to Thursday’s, Morris not only has a win on the mound, but he’s 5 for 9 at the plate with eight runs batted in and four runs scored. Hicks matched Morris’ 4 for 5 performance on Wednesday and drove in three runs. Vinson went 3 for 5 and also had three RBIs while Odom went 3 for 5 with an RBI and a run scored. Vocque, McAtee and Cole got two hits apiece against Relyance, while Vaughan and Kaufman added one hit each in the 210-minute game.

Cole was the fourth of five Cabot pitchers and got the win on the mound on Wednesday. Cabot held leads of 8-2 and 12-8, but Pine Bluff tied the game at 12 in the bottom of the fifth. Cabot scored four in the top of the sixth and Cole pitched the bottom of the frame, giving up one run to get the win. He also faced one batter in the seventh before yielding to Vocque, who closed the game for the save.