Friday, March 21, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot opens league by upending champs

Leader sportswriter

Thanks in large part to Hannah Montgomery’s three home runs, the Lady Panther softball team escaped Tuesday’s 7A/6A East Conference game against North Little Rock, last year’s class 7A state champion, with a close 9-7 win at the Cabot softball complex.

Montgomery, a freshman, also got the win as she pitched all seven innings and recorded three strikeouts while giving up two walks. However, Cabot came close to blowing a seven-run lead in the last inning.

Cabot entered the top of the seventh with a 9-2 lead and all but dominated the first six innings of play, but the defending state champs wouldn’t go away so easily. Nine-hole hitter Kaylie Roberts led off the top of the seventh with a single to left field, which started the Lady Cats’ monster rally.

Leadoff hitter Sydney Parr then singled to center field, and Ashton Bobbitt followed with a single to left, which scored Roberts. Three-hole hitter McKenzie Escovedo flew out the next at bat, but cleanup hitter Katy Kinnison, the team’s best hitter, hammered a stand-up double to right field that scored two more runs for the visitors.

Hannah Lovercheck then came to the plate and made up for her 0 for 3 showing with a two-run bomb over the left-field fence that cut Cabot’s lead to 9-7.

Cabot coach Chris Cope called time to go out and settle his team down, and what he said in the huddle worked as Morgan Seaton flew out the next at bat for the second out of the inning.

Anna Beaver came in to pinch hit and got an infield single, which brought the tying run to the plate.

Reagan Sperling followed Beaver’s at bat with a hard line drive to right field, but Molly Wood was there to make the grab and end the game in the Lady Panthers’ favor.

“We were looking at that scoreboard and in those last three innings we didn’t do anything,” said Cope. “We had runners at second base and we had bases loaded with one out in the sixth inning and we just didn’t capitalize, and with a good team like that it can hurt you.”

Cope briefly described the message he had for his team when he called time late in the seventh.

“I asked Hannah how she was feeling,” Cope said, “and my pitcher said ‘all right. I’m ready, I got these next two outs.’ You just go out there and say ‘hey, the bases are cleared, two more outs and let’s get it done,’ and that’s what they did.”

Despite the final score, Cabot dominated early. The Lady Panthers led 3-0 after the first inning thanks to a solo home run by Montgomery and a two-run home run by cleanup hitter Kaitlyn Felder.

The Lady Panthers upped their lead to 7-0 after the second inning. Leadoff hitter Lane Justus led off the second with a single and Montgomery followed with a two-run shot to left-center field, which put Cabot on top 5-0.

Sophomore shortstop Heather Hill walked the next at bat, and two batters later, Wood hit a two-out, two-run home run to center field that made it a 7-0 ball game.

North Little Rock (2-2, 0-1) scored its first run of the game in the top of the third with an inside the park home run by Parr, but Cabot (2-1, 1-0) added two more runs to the board its next at bat.

Rachel Allgood got an infield single off the pitcher with one out, and two batters later, Montgomery hit her third home run of the day, this one over the left-field fence, which gave Cabot a comfortable 9-1 lead.

North Little Rock made it a 9-2 game in the top of the fourth with a double down the right-field line by Sperling that scored Lydia Belew.

Montgomery finished 3 for 4 at the plate with five RBIs. Wood and Felder each had two hits, while Justus, Hill, Allgood, Macee Abbott and Erin Eckert had one hit apiece.

The Lady Panthers traveled to Farmington this weekend for a tournament and they’ll play next in the Cabot/Beebe tournament next Saturday.

Conference play will resume April 1 at Marion.