Friday, July 25, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot defeats NLR, settles for two seed

Leader sportswriter

CONWAY – The Cabot-Centennial Bank Senior American Legion team bounced back from a disappointing loss to Fort Smith on Monday in the Zone 1 Senior American Legion tournament to beat North Little Rock 6-4 in Tuesday’s semifinal at the Hendrix College baseball field.

Cabot and North Little Rock each entered Tuesday’s matchup with a 2-1 record in Zone tournament play, which guaranteed both teams a berth in the state tournament that starts today at Bryant.

Even though Cabot had already locked up a berth in the state tournament, Centennial Bank coach Chris Gross wanted his team to finish on a higher note than it did Monday against Fort Smith, a game which the head coach says his team didn’t show up ready to play for.

“I think they showed up today,” said Gross after Tuesday’s win over NLR. “I think the heat got to some of them, but they definitely showed up ready to play today.”

Both teams went scoreless in the first inning Tuesday, but Cabot took the game’s first lead with a run scored in the top of the second. After a groundout by Gavin Tillery, Cabot’s Hayden Vinson was hit by a pitch to get on base.

Vinson advanced to second base the next at-bat on a sacrifice bunt by Grayson Cole, and with two outs, left fielder Grant Bell hit a triple to deep rightcenter to drive in Vinson for the game’s first run.

Centennial Bank’s next run came in the top of the third. Starting pitcher Kason Kimbrell walked to lead off the inning. He stole second base and went to third on an infield hit by Ryan Logan.

The next at-bat, Kimbrell scored on a sac fly to center field by cleanup hitter Landon James. North Little Rock scored its first run in the bottom part of the inning, and Cabot got two more on its side of the board in the top of the fourth.

Vinson singled to right center to start the inning. He stole second base and scored two batters later on a stand-up double to left center by Bell, which made it 3-1 Cabot. Bell later scored on a two-out single to the gap in right field by Kimbrell.

North Little Rock, however, managed to cut its deficit to one with two runs scored in the bottom of the fourth, but Cabot scored again in the sixth to lead 5-3. Shortstop Conner Vocque walked to start the inning, and Kimbrell followed with his second single of the game.

That brought Logan to the plate, and with the hit and run on, Logan delivered with a timely single to the right-field gap, which allowed Vocque to score with ease and give the Centennial Bank squad the 5-3 cushion.

Cabot got an insurance run in the top of the ninth to push its lead to three before North Little Rock scored its final run in the bottom part of the inning to set the final score at 6-4.

Adam Hicks led off the top of the ninth with a single to center field, and catcher Tristan Bulice was hit by a pitch to put Hicks at second. Tillery then laid down a bunt to advance both runners.

North Little Rock tried to get Hicks out at third base, but the throw was off the mark, which allowed Hicks to score Centennial Bank’s sixth and final run of the game.

Cabot used three different pitchers Tuesday. Kimbrell threw the first four and one-third innings and earned the win. He finished with five strikeouts in that time. Tillery pitched into the ninth inning and gave up no earned runs on just three hits before turning pitching duties over to Logan, who earned the save.

Centennial Bank outhit NLR 12-8. Bell, Logan and Kimbrell led Cabot with two hits apiece, while teammates Vocque, James, Bulice, Vinson, Hicks and Lee Sullivan each had one hit.

North Little Rock second baseman Will Hopkins led all batters, going 3 for 3 with two RBIs.

Cabot was scheduled to take on Fort Smith in Wednesday’s Zone 1 championship game, but the game was canceled because of storms. Since the state tournament begins today and Fort Smith beat Cabot head-to-head, Fort Smith will be the No. 1 seed from Zone 1 and Cabot will be the two. Cabot will play Texarkana at 4:30 p.m. today.

Look for details of that game and subsequent Cabot state tournament games in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.