Saturday, May 17, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot in second round of 7A state

Leader sportswriter

A two-run blast by Tristan Bulice and a strong performance on the mound by senior southpaw Kason Kimbrell helped Cabot beat Rogers Heritage 4-1 in the first round of the class 7A state baseball tournament Friday at North Little Rock’s Burns Park.

Bulice’s home run put the Panthers on top 4-0 in the bottom of the fifth. Heritage added a run in the sixth, and threatened to make it a game in the top of the seventh by loading the bases, but Kimbrell struck out two-hole hitter Ty Harris to end the game.

Kimbrell pitched all seven innings, finishing with five strikeouts. He gave up five hits in the game and only walked three, but all three walks came in the last inning.

Despite the signs of fatigue in the final inning of play, Cabot coach Ronnie Goodwin stuck with Kimbrell, and even though the last inning got interesting the senior came through when his team needed it the most.

“Going into single elimination, I told our guys anything can happen,” said Cabot coach Ronnie Goodwin. “We’re going to have to get a lot of innings out of pitchers.

“It could’ve been a gamble there, but he’s one of our best competitors. So I’m willing to live and die with that guy on the mound just because of his toughness and mental make up.”

Cabot took a 1-0 lead with an RBI single by three-hole hitter Riley Knudsen in the top of the third. That scored Grayson Cole, who singled to left field earlier in the inning.

The Panthers added another run in the fourth on a sacrifice fly to center field by Zach Patterson. That scored Coleman McAtee, who singled to left field two batters earlier.

In the fifth, Cabot second baseman Adam Hicks singled to left field, and with two outs, cleanup hitter Bulice hit the two-run bomb over the 340-foot fence in left field, giving the Panthers a 4-0 cushion.

Heritage, the west three seed, added its lone run in the top of the sixth. Harris hit a stand-up double to deep right center before scoring later on a passed ball at the plate.

Kimbrell walked the first batter he faced in the top of the seventh on four-straight pitches, but Brandon Norris flew out to left field the next at-bat for the first out of the inning.

Kimbrell issued another walk the next at-bat, but struck out pinch hitter Jake Kent the following at-bat. Another walk was issued before Harris came to the plate, and Kimbrell got him to chase a breaking ball for strike three, ending the game in Cabot’s favor.

“He has been our hottest hand, so he deserved to start today,” Goodwin said. “Not that others didn’t, but I was willing to let him go. He had one more hitter in him.

“I’m really proud of the way our ballclub competed. It started on the mound, but we put together good quality at-bats. We got leadoff men on base. We kept their leadoff men off base. Our guys just bought in to what we do and it worked out today.”

Cabot outhit Heritage 8-5. Hicks and Bulice led the Panthers with two hits apiece, while teammates Cole, McAtee, Knudsen and Lee Sullivan each had one hit.

The Panthers (16-12), the No. 6 Central seed, play Little Rock Catholic, the No. 2 Central seed, at 2:30 this afternoon at Burns Park.