Tuesday, April 01, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Panthers finish in fourth

Leader sports editor

The Cabot softball team still hasn’t found the magic it had when it hit five home runs in beating North Little Rock two weeks ago, but it did play better in the Beebe/Cabot Invitational at the end of spring break than it did in three games in northwest Arkansas before spring break.

The Lady Panthers went 1-2 in Saturday’s tournament, opening play with an 11-2 win over Bauxite. They lost to 7-0 to Brookland in the semifinals, and then fell 6-5 to Bryant in the third-place game at Beebe.

“We’re starting to put it in play a little bit more,” said Cabot coach Chris Cope. “That North Little Rock game killed us. We hit five home runs and now that’s all we’re swinging for. We haven’t been able to hit ever since that game.”

Cope’s repeated mantra throughout Saturday’s tournament was “just put the ball in play”. Doing so earned Cabot four unearned runs in the last game, as the Lady Hornets committed five errors.

“I tell them if you just put it in play, they have to do something with it,” Cope said. “They have to catch, and they have to throw it somewhere. Just keep putting it in play and good things are probably going to happen.”

The Lady Panthers, 3-6, 1-0, played good defense, committing no errors, but couldn’t get Bryant’s leadoff hitter out in any inning. The Lady Hornets scored one run in the top of the first inning before Cabot went on top in the bottom half.

Rachel Allgood got a leadoff single and Erin Eckert reached on an error by the pitcher. Heather Hill hit a line-drive single to right field to score Allgood and Payton Steadman’s sacrifice grounder scored Eckert for a 2-1 Panther lead.

That lead disappeared quickly as Bryant added three in the top of the second. Breanna Sanders hit a leadoff triple, but was still standing on third with two outs. After an RBI single, Bryant’s Katy Stillman drove one out over the fence in left field for a two-RBI home run and a 4-2 Bryant lead.

The Lady Hornets added another run in the third on an RBI by Sanders that scored Kaley Coppock. The score remained 5-2 until the bottom of the last scheduled inning, when Cabot scored three runs off two hits, two walks and three errors.

Eckert got it started with an infield single when she beat out a hit that barely got out of the batter’s box. Hill walked before Kaitlyn Felder popped up to first base. Molly Wood hit a grounder to shortstop, where Sanders was at first indecisive of whether to throw to first or try to get the lead runner at third.

She started for first, then changed her mind, and made a high throw over to third base, leaving everyone safe. Macee Abbott then hit a single to center field to drive in Eckert and Hill and make it a one-run game. Hannah Montgomery struck out, but Lane Justus reached on another error on the mound, which again loaded the bases.

Shauna Attendorn then drew an RBI walk that tied the game.

Bryant won it in extra innings with two sacrifice grounders that scored the runner from second base. Eckert tried to put down a sacrifice bunt to get Allgood to third, but popped it up to the catcher. Hill and Felder then struck out to end the game.

The Lady Panthers got rolling in the second inning of game one against Bauxite. Wood and Abbott got back-to-back singles before Eckert hit into a fielder’s choice that left everyone safe.

Lane Justus then singled to score one run, and Attendorn hit a fly ball to left field that was mishandled, bringing in everyone else and giving the Lady Panthers a 4-0 lead.

Wood got another leadoff single to start the third inning before Abbott was hit by a pitch. Eckert then drilled a three-run home run to clear the bases, but the Lady Panthers weren’t finished.

Justus singled before Attendorn finally recorded an out with fly ball to right field. Allgood and Montgomery then hit back-to-back doubles for two more runs and a 9-1 Cabot lead.

The Lady Miners added a run in the top of the third, but Cabot added two more in the bottom of the fourth to set the final margin. After Parker Steadman drew a leadoff walk, Wood and Justus hit consecutive doubles to make it 11-2.

The Lady Panthers traveled to Marion on Tuesday to resume 7A/6A East Conference play.