Monday, June 10, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot’s seniors get first victory

Leader sports editor

The search for its first win is over for Cabot’s senior Centennial Bank American Legion team. The Panthers went on the road Tuesday and pounded Pine Bluff 9-3 in Jefferson County. The win broke a five-game losing streak that started the season.

“It was nice to get that monkey off your back a little bit,” Cabot coach Cody Whitworth said. “We’d had some people playing out of position for the first several games. This was the first time we’ve had kids playing the positions they’re used to playing, and they were comfortable. That had a lot to do with it.”

The comfort was evident in the error-less defensive performance by the Panthers. Errors had plagued Cabot in some of its early losses. The Panthers committed nine errors in a big loss to Bryant, and six errors in a one-run loss to Fort Smith.

“All that’s directly related to them being in positions they’re comfortable with,” Whitworth said. “We’ve had an outfielder playing third base, and our centerfielder at second. In a way it’s good for them, but we wanted to settle in and get a win.”

Family vacations and nagging injuries are the reasons for the early-season displacements, but Whitworth says the team is now at full strength.

“We talked about working up to when we’re starting to go into postseason and zone tournament, we want to be peaking then,” Whitworth said. “We knew we would be shorthanded early on and we told them to just keep their heads up and hang on. We’d get through it and start working toward that goal.”

Leadoff hitter Conner Vocque scored got the first hit, scored the first run and led the Cabot offensive attack all night. He reached base in all five plate appearances, compiling four base hits and one walk.

“He changed his approach up a little bit and he tore it up in this game,” Whitworth said.

The Panthers compiled 13 base hits with Bryson Morris, Casey Vaughan, Riley Knudsen and Hayden Vinson posting two apiece.

Base hits by Vocque and Morris led to one run in the top of the first inning that gave Cabot the early lead.

Pine Bluff put up three runs in the bottom of the second and stayed in the lead until the fourth inning. Cabot put up one run in the third to make it 3-2, then added two in the fourth to take the lead for good.

Grayson Cole, Vinson, Vocque and Morris all got base hits in the fifth inning to add two more runs to Cabot’s lead, making it 6-3.

After a scoreless sixth inning, the Panthers got the final margin with three runs in the top of the seventh. With one out, Coleman McAtee, Vinson and Vocque got consecutive base hits. Morris reached on an error at shortstop that scored one run. Knudsen then singled to drive in the final runs of the game.

Knudsen was also sharp on the mound, going all seven innings for the win. He threw just 103 pitches, gave up seven hits and three earned runs while striking out eight and walking one.

“Riley threw the ball extremely well,” Whitworth said. “He was stronger in the seventh than he was in the first. His curve ball had more bite on it and his knuckle ball was working well.”

The Centennial Bank squad played Conway last night after deadlines. Cabot will host Clarksville at 8 p.m. tonight and host North Little Rock on Monday.