Saturday, July 12, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot Red bounces back

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Red Junior American Legion team won the Zone 3 postseason tournament with a pair of mercy-rule wins over tournament host Heber Springs in Wednesday’s championship round.

Cabot Red beat Heber Springs in game one, which actually began Tuesday night, by the final score of 15-0 in six innings, and the visiting Centennial Bank squad hammered the host team again in game two by the final score of 13-0 in five innings.

Centennial Bank went into the tournament as the No. 1 seed, and advanced to the championship round by going 2-1 from Saturday to Monday in the double-elimination tournament.

Heber Springs (6-6) was the surprise team of the tournament, as it advanced to the championship round as a No. 6 seed. Along the way, Heber Springs handed Cabot its lone loss of the tourney – a shocking 13-3 mercy-rule beat down in the winners’ bracket semifinal that took place Monday; a loss that dropped Cabot to the finals of the losers’ bracket.

Cabot Red (22-7) made up for the loss with a 21-2 pummeling of three-seeded Searcy in the losers’ bracket final Monday night, which set up a rematch with Heber Springs in the championship round. Since Heber got to the championship round without a loss in tournament play, Cabot had to beat the host team twice in that round to earn the tournament championship.

The first game of the tournament final started Tuesday night, and Cabot scored four runs in the third inning to lead 4-0 after three. As soon as the inning ended, though, the game was delayed and eventually postponed to Wednesday because of thunder storms.

Wednesday’s game picked up where it left off in the top of the fourth inning, and Cabot added four more runs to its side of the board to push its lead to 8-0. Centennial Bank added another run in the fifth to lead 9-0, and had its best inning yet in the sixth.

Jonathan Harpole led off that inning with a bunt single, and Jacob Slunder reached on a dropped fly ball in right field the next at-bat. Starting pitcher Chris Odom walked the following at-bat to load the bases with no outs.

Jacob Davis then came to the plate, and he was plunked by Heber Springs’ pitcher Chandler Marquardt, which sent Harpole across the plate and gave Davis an RBI. Tanner Wilkie drove in Cabot’s 11th run by hitting into a fielder’s choice at second base after Davis’ at-bat, and Mike Havard made it 12-0 Cabot with a single to left field that drove in Michael Shepherd, Odom’s courtesy runner.

Shortstop Blake McCutchen made it 13-0 Centennial Bank the next at-bat with a single up the middle of the diamond, which allowed Wilkie to score. The final score was set two batters later on a two-out, two-RBI stand-up triple to deep right field by catcher Denver Mullins that sent teammates Havard and McCutchen across the plate.

Offensively, Cabot picked up where it left off in game two, scoring six runs in the first inning alone then adding four more in the second and three more in the third to set the final score.

“From top-to-bottom, it didn’t matter who was in the lineup, every one of them hit the ball well and threw the ball well and fielded the ball well,” said Cabot Red coach Justin Moore. “We just played good baseball. It’s as simple as this – when you hit the ball like that, my job’s easy.

“We had to win three in a row. We got good pitching out of Odom, Shepherd and Germer, and got it done. I still had two or three guys who can pitch that haven’t thrown any in this tournament that could’ve pitched just the same as any of the other ones.”

Odom started on the mound in both games of the championship round. He threw all six innings of the first game.

He struck out six batters and gave up four hits and no walks to earn the shutout win in that game, and threw the first three innings of game two before being relieved by Gino Germer. Odom struck out one batter while giving up just three hits and no walks in that game.

“I knew he had that kind of stuff,” Moore said of Odom. “He came out yesterday (Tuesday) and today (Wednesday) and got it done. I was excited about it. I wanted to leave him in and let him get his 10 innings in, because he was feeling it, but I needed to get Gino some work because he hasn’t pitched in about a week and a half.”

Havard, Odom and Slunder finished with two hits each in game one to lead Centennial Bank offensively. Slunder, Shepherd and Mullins led the offensive onslaught in game two as those three each went 2 for 3.

With the Zone 3 tournament championship, Cabot Red qualifies for the Arkansas Junior American Legion state tournament at Burns Park in North Little Rock. It will play Paragould at 5 p.m. today.