Saturday, May 03, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Panthers hold top spot

Leader sportswriter

Six runs scored in the sixth inning helped the Lady Panthers’ softball team pull away from Jonesboro in their 7A/6A-East matchup Wednesday at the Cabot Softball Complex, winning by the final score of 8-1.

Cabot held a narrow 2-0 lead going into the sixth inning, but that lead was cut to one with one swing of the bat. Jonesboro three-hole hitter Madi Bishop led off the inning with a towering solo home run that sailed over the fence in right field, cutting the Lady Panther lead to 2-1.

Cabot, though, responded in a big way its next at-bat, scoring six runs to push the lead to seven, which all but put the game away.

Freshman Hannah Montgomery walked to lead off the inning, and senior Brandyn Vines laid down a sacrifice bunt the next at-bat to advance Montgomery to second base. Vines was safe on the play, however, as the throw to first was dropped by the Lady Hurricane second baseman, whom was covering the bag on the play.

Lane Justus also bunted the next at-bat to advance both runners, but was thrown out at firstfor the sacrifice. That brought leadoff hitter Rachel Allgood to the plate, and she drove in both runners with a single to straightaway center, giving the Lady Panthers a 4-1 lead.

Erin Eckert was next up for Cabot, and she singled to right field. Allgood scored on the play, though, and Eckert advanced to third base because the ball got past the Jonesboro right fielder. Three-hole hitter Heather Hill walked the next at-bat and cleanup hitter Kaitlyn Felder singled to left field, driving in Eckert for a 6-1 Cabot lead.

Molly Wood followed Felder’s at-bat with a one-out single to right field, which allowed Hill to score, and Shauna Attendorn, Felder’s courtesy runner, scored the final run of the game on a passed ball at home plate. The throw from the backstop actually beat Attendorn home, but she was able to slide under the tag to set the final score.

With the win, the Lady Panthers improved their conference record to 11-1 on the season and earned the season sweep over Jonesboro. The first meeting between the two teams was much closer.

Cabot won that matchup 4-3, and did the most damage in the sixth inning of that game as well.

“It was the same difference in that game,” said Cabot coach Chris Cope. “We got up on them in the sixth inning and we held on.”

Even though Cabot got the win, Cope would like to see his team get off to better starts and not wait till late in the game to start putting runs on the scoreboard.

“We’re getting to the point where we’ve got to start earlier,” Cope said. “We’re having good late innings, but we need to start early and make them chase us the whole game.”

Freshman Lauren McCl-uskey got the win in the circle. She pitched all seven innings and finished with three strikeouts while giving up just four hits. The Lady Panthers outhit the Lady Hurricane 10-4.

Vines, Wood and Eckert led Cabot offensively, as each finished with two hits. Team-mates Allgood, Hill, Felder and Macee Abbott had one hit apiece.

Cabot played at North Little Rock yesterday after deadlines in a game that will in all likelihood decide the 7A/6A-East Conference champion. Both teams entered yesterday’s game with just one loss in conference play.

North Little Rock’s lone loss in league play was against Cabot in the conference opener in March. The Lady Panthers won that game 9-7 after holding off a furious seventh-inning rally from the Lady Cats. Look for details of that highly-anticipated rematch in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.

The Lady Panthers (14-8, 11-1) have three games next week. They’ll play a nonconference game against Benton at home Monday before closing their conference schedule Tuesday at home against Searcy.

Their final game of the week will be a nonconference game on the road at perennial power Bryant. Each of those games is scheduled to start at 5 p.m.