Friday, February 28, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers hammer Lonoke

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot baseball team piled up runs throughout its benefit game at Lonoke on Thursday, and beat the class 4A Jackrabbits in the exhibition by the final score of 16-1.

It’s been a long preseason of preparation for both teams, and at least for the Panthers, it was good to finally get out and play in a competitive setting against a different team.

“It was really nice just to play someone with a different uniform on,” said Cabot coach Ronnie Goodwin. “Our guys, they were excited to play someone else. They’ve been beating up on each other for a while. We started practice back in September, so we’ve been going at it for quite a while.

“My message to them before the game was you’re as prepared as anyone in the state in my opinion, and now it’s just about going out and executing what we’ve worked on in practice, and just getting those first-game jitters out of the way.”

Each team threw several pitchers in the exhibition, but it didn’t matter who was on the mound for Lonoke, as Cabot had little trouble scoring runs. The Panthers scored four runs in the first inning and held the Jackrabbits scoreless to lead 4-0 after one.

Cabot took a 5-0 lead after the second inning. In that inning, Panthers’ leadoff hitter Conner Vocque reached on an E4, and scored two batters later on a one-out single to the right-field gap by Riley Knudsen.

In the third inning, the Panthers scored five more runs and held the Jackrabbits scoreless yet again to take a commanding 10-0 lead after three. All of Cabot’s runs in the third came with two outs.

Grayson Cole started the two-out rally with a stand-up double to left field, and catcher Brent Dean and Vocque followed with stand-up doubles to that side of the field as well. Dean’s hit drove in Cole and Vocque’s hit drove in Dean’s pinch runner, Lee Sullivan.

Kason Kimbrell then came to the plate and delivered a two-out single up the middle of the diamond to drive in Vocque, and Knudsen, the team’s three-hole hitter, got his third hit of the game with a towering two-run home run over the right-field fence, which put the Panthers on top 10-0.

Knudsen led the team last year in batting average, and the returning All-State senior third baseman appears to have picked up where he left off after last year’s stellar season at the plate.

“Riley was outstanding,” Goodwin said. “He’s really had some nice at bats here in the early spring and in intrasquad games. He’s been really hot in those intrasquad games and that carried over tonight.

“Obviously the home run was a really nice at bat. He just has such an advanced approach for a high-school hitter. So many young kids get caught up in mechanics and things like that, and that’s a big part of it. You have to be mechanically sound, but there’s a lot more to hitting and Riley understands that.”

Lonoke scored its lone run in the bottom of the fourth. Elijah Seigrist got hit by a pitch; then advanced to second base on a bad pickoff move to first. Tevin Patillo then reached on an E3, which put Seigrist on third base, giving the Rabbits runners at the corners.

With Wyatt Howell at the plate, Patillo stole second base, and on the throw to second by Cabot’s Dean, Seigrist took off for home and made it across the plate safely before Dean’s throw could be returned.

The Panthers added five more runs in the sixth inning before setting the final score in the seventh with one more.

Starting pitcher Zach Patterson got the win and was the only pitcher for either team to throw more than one inning. He threw two innings and struck out six batters, while giving up just two walks, one hit and no earned runs.

Knudsen finished the game 3 for 3 at the plate with four RBIs and two runs scored. Vocque and Dean each had two hits for Cabot.

For Lonoke, seniors Pierce Johnson and Mikey Shinn had one hit apiece.

The Panthers will play their regular-season opener at home against class 5A Vilonia on Tuesday at 5 p.m.

Lonoke will also play its regular-season opener at home, but on Monday against Hazen.

The Jackrabbits will then play Tuesday against Little Rock Christian Academy, also at home. Both of those home games start at approximately 4:30 p.m.