Monday, May 12, 2014

SPORTS >> Cabot ladies win East crown

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers secured at least a share of the 7A/6A-East Conference softball championship Tuesday by hammering the Searcy Lions 16-1 in four innings. The win also snapped a three-game losing streak and gives the Lady Panthers their first conference championship in eight years.

In the first outing against Searcy, Cabot coach Chris Cope’s former team, the Lady Panthers struggled through four innings before finally getting on the scoreboard and going on to a mercy-rule victory. There was no such delay in offense on Tuesday.

“We came out swinging the bats pretty well this time and just played a really good game overall,” said Cope. “Hannah Montgomery pitched a great game for us and did a great job at the plate. She was hitting really well early and then not so much. Her swing is starting to come back around and that’s big. We need her bat in our lineup.”

Montgomery’s bat indeed came around on Tuesday. Already 2 for 3 at the plate with a double and two RBIs, Montgomery hit a walk-off grand slam in the fourth inning that set the final margin.

Cabot, 15-10, 12-2, got on the board quickly in the first inning, scoring four runs on five base hits and two Searcy errors.

Brandyn Vines singled to start the second inning and scored three batters later on a base hit by Montgomery.

A double by Kaitlyn Felder, a walk by Molly Wood and a double by Macee Abbott started the third inning. After an out, Vines’ shot to right field was dropped, scoring Abbott. Rachel Allgood then singled to score Vines for the third time in the game.

Erin Eckert reached on an error to lead off the fourth inning before Felder popped up to third. Wood hit into a fielder’s choice that left everyone safe. Abbott, Lane Justus, Vines and Allgood all hit consecutive singles before Heather Hill popped up. That brought Montgomery to the plate for the game-ending swing on a 1-1 pitch. Vines went 3 for 4 with a double. She reached base on every at-bat and scored four runs. Allgood also went 3 for 4 with an RBI and two runs scored. Felder and Abbott went 2 for 3 with one double apiece. As a team, the Lady Panthers went 17 of 29 at the plate.

Montgomery pitched all four innings for Cabot. She gave up four hits and one earned run while striking out two and walking no one.

The Lady Panthers are finished with their conference games. They are currently tied with North Little Rock in the loss column in league play. The Lady Wildcats have only Little Rock Central left on their league schedule.

Cabot, NLR and Conway are all still in the running for the No. 1 seed from the mythical 7A-Central Conference in the state tournament. Tiebreaker point totals won’t be clear until NLR and Conway complete their league schedules.

“I think we still have an outside chance at a one seed, but it looks like a two for us,” Cope said. “That gets us a bye to the quarterfinals. A 12-2 record and a bye in the first round, we haven’t been in that situation in a while so we’ll take it.”