Friday, March 28, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers win twice at CAI

Leader sports editor

The Cabot baseball team made a power play on Thursday in the opening round of the Central Arkansas Invitational. The Panthers opened the three-site tournament at Lamar Porter Field in Little Rock, and whipped Alma 9-1 in a rain-delayed game, getting two first-inning home runs to take command of the game. Cabot pitcher Zach Patterson gave up a single run in the top of the first on no hits, but the Panther bats erased that deficit quickly. The Panthers scored four runs in the bottom of the same inning and never trailed again.

The Airedales’ first-inning run came after Patterson walked leadoff hitter Askitu Williams on four pitches. He moved to third on an error in left field with one out, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Dylan Brown.

Patterson threw a two-hitter the rest of the way.

Cabot’s four-run rally in the bottom of the first started with an error in right field with one out. That left Adam Hicks safe at first. Riley Knudsen then singled to put two runners on for Tristan Bulice. The junior designated hitter blasted one over the high fence in left-center field.

After a grounder for the second out, Patterson had the rare green light on a 3-0 pitch and drilled a solo home run for a 4-1 lead.

Though Alma struggled to hit Patterson, the hard-throwing Division I signee struggled with control. He started the second inning by hitting and walking the first two batters, but finished it by striking out the side.

Cabot added two more runs in the second frame, starting with a one-out double by nine-hole hitter Conner Vocque. Leadoff hitter Lee Sullivan then singled to score Knudsen and Hicks walked. Knudsen then hit an RBI single to make it 6-1.

Patterson had to work out of a little trouble again in the third inning. He hit Cade Spelker with one out, and Brown followed with the Airedales’ first base hit. But Patterson struck out Brent Ferris and got Will Montgomery to hit back to him for a 1-3 play that ended the inning.

The Panthers added two more in the fourth inning before the rains came. Patterson drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on a grounder to shortstop by Logan Kirkendoll. Grayson Cole then walked on four pitches and two batters later, both runners scored on a base hit by Sullivan. The rain blew up the brackets and tournament organizers reverted to just trying to get teams games.

That meant Cabot played Kickapoo High of Springfield, Mo., Friday morning. The Panthers won that one 8-1.

Hicks threw five innings, giving up no earned runs. Gavin Tillery pitched the last two innings of scoreless baseball.

“We’re starting to hit the ball a little better,” said Cabot coach Ronnie Goodwin. “The kids had a good approach. They weren’t just going out there trying to hit home runs, but we took advantage of that ballpark. We had the wind with us a little bit, but we were just trying to go out there and hit the ball in the middle of the field.

“The pitching has been pretty good from the start and the offense is starting to catch up. I told them I feel like if we can score four runs or more a game, it ought to win 80 or 90 percent of the time.”

In game two, Knudsen got a double and a single with two RBIs. Bulice got another extra-base hit and Sullivan reached on every at bat, including three walks.

The Panthers were scheduled to face Springdale Har-Ber last night after Leader deadlines.