Tuesday, May 20, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot ousted in semifinals

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Panthers got past the quarterfinal round of the class 7A state baseball tournament at North Little Rock’s Burns Park with a 2-0 win over Little Rock Catholic on Saturday, but came up short against defending state champion Fayetteville in Monday’s semifinal round, losing 5-0 to the Bulldogs.

On Saturday, Dylan Bowers scored the only run Cabot would need on a ground ball to first base by Lee Sullivan in the top of the second inning. In the last inning, Kason Kimbrell gave the Panthers an insurance run with a sacrifice fly to center field that scored Braden Jarnigan, setting the final score at 2-0.

Cabot ace Zach Patterson had another stellar outing on the mound in the team’s shutout win over Catholic, the No. 2 Central seed. He threw all seven innings for the Panthers, the No. 6 Central seed, finishing with six strikeouts, while giving up just two walks and three hits.

The Panthers outhit the Rockets 10-3, with seniors Riley Knudsen, Kimbrell and Grayson Cole leading the offense with two hits apiece. Monday’s game with the reigning champion Bulldogs, the No. 1 West seed, proved to be a much bigger challenge.

Cabot was never able to match Fayetteville’s three-run second inning. Fayetteville added another run to its side of the board in the fourth inning, and set the final score in the fifth with another run scored.

Fayetteville outhit Cabot 9-5 in the game, and the Bulldogs were able to get the timely hit in the second, fourth and fifth innings. As a team, the Panthers couldn’t figure out how to get the timely hit against Bulldog senior pitcher and University of Arkansas signee Kyle Pate.

“I think anyone that was hitting could see that their pitcher brought his good stuff,” said Cabot coach Ronnie Goodwin of Pate. “Hats off to him, he had his good stuff today. He pitched like a pro guy.

“He was able to throw 2-1 sliders for strikes, and got some swings and misses out of that. But our guys competed. They weren’t scared, and so I’m proud of them for that.”

Cabot starting pitcher Adam Hicks had his stuff early on as he retired the side in the first inning, but the Bulldogs started the second inning with four-consecutive singles, which led to a 2-0 lead for Fayetteville.

Cody Davenport started the rally with a single to center field, and Andy Pagnozzi followed with a single to the gap in left field. Shortstop Drew Tyler also singled to left field the next at-bat, and Blake Power drove in Davenport and Pagnozzi with a single to straightaway center.

Tyler scored the third and final run of the inning from third base on a bad pickoff move at first base.

In the bottom of the fourth, Fayetteville went up 4-0 on a no-out, RBI single to the gap in left field by designated hitter Ethan King. Tyler scored on the play. He was hit by a pitch two batters earlier, and got in scoring position with another single by Power the following at-bat.

The Bulldogs added their final run their next at-bat. Davenport, the team’s cleanup hitter, got the fifth inning going with a stand-up double down the left-field line. He stole third base before Gavin Tillery, who came in to relieve Hicks on the mound in the fourth inning, struck out Pagnozzi.

However, the Bulldogs set the final score on a two-out single to the right-field gap by Tyler that scored Davenport. Pate, who finished with a game-high nine strikeouts on the hill, retired the side in the top of the seventh to advance the Bulldogs to the championship game for the second year in a row.

Even though Cabot lost the game, it was an excellent playoff run the six-seeded Panthers were able to put together. They barely made it into the state tournament as the six seed, and they beat Rogers Heritage in the first round before upsetting Catholic in the semis. Both teams were higher seeds.

“It was a season of ups and downs,” Goodwin said. “Our seniors were really, really unselfish, and they just kept showing up. We kept telling them all along, we were better than our conference record showed.

“From day one in September, I told our guys the most important thing in this whole thing is to be playing your best in May. Our seniors did something that only one other team in the history of Cabot has done. So I couldn’t be more pleased with this group.”

Sullivan led the Panthers (17-13) at the plate against Fayetteville (31-3). He was 2 for 3 with two singles. Hicks, Coleman McAtee and Logan Kirkendoll had one hit apiece for Cabot.

Davenport, Tyler and Power led the Bulldogs offensively with two hits apiece. Fayetteville will play Bryant, the No. 2 West seed, in the class 7A state championship game Friday at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.

Bryant beat Conway 2-0 on Monday to advance to Friday’s championship game, which is scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m.