Tuesday, July 22, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot wins two at Zone tourney

Leader sportswriter

CONWAY – The Cabot-Centennial Bank Senior American Legion team fell to 2-1 in the Arkansas American Legion Senior Zone Tournament after losing to Fort Smith by the final score of 3-2 Monday at the Hendrix College baseball field.

Both teams were 2-0 heading into Monday’s matchup. Cabot beat Bentonville 10-0 in seven innings on Saturday while Fort Smith beat Conway in the nightcap Saturday by the final score of 7-6.

On Sunday, each team advanced in the winners’ bracket yet again as Cabot handed Jacksonville a 4-1 loss, while Fort Smith won another close game; this one a 5-4 triumph over North Little Rock.

Cabot can still win the double-elimination tourney if it wins out, but for Fort Smith, the win over Cabot guaranteed it a spot in the state tournament that starts Saturday at Bryant.

Cabot scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the first inning Monday. Shortstop and leadoff hitter Conner Vocque started the inning with a double to left field, and advanced to third base two batters later on an infield single by teammate Ryan Logan.

With runners at the corners, Fort Smith pitcher Jorden Lawrence tried several times to pick off Logan at first base as he anticipated Logan trying to steal second, but on Lawrence’s final pickoff attempt, Vocque broke for home plate and was able to slide under catcher Jordan Miller’s tag on the throw from first to home, making it 1-0 Cabot.

The score remained 1-0 until the top of the fifth when Fort Smith scored two runs to take the lead. Lawrence singled down the third baseline to lead off the inning, and Miller got on base after being hit by a pitch.

Brennan Dooly tried to lay down a sacrifice bunt the next at-bat, but got the bat too far underneath the ball and popped it up in the air where it was easily caught for the first out of the inning. That brought leadoff hitter Hunter Wilson to the plate, and he reached base safely on a 5-4 fielder’s choice.

With two outs and a 3-1 count, two-hole hitter Drew Person hit a clutch stand-up double down the right-field line to send both Lawrence and Wilson across the plate and give the Kerwins Sportsmen team its first lead at 2-1.

Fort Smith added its third and final run in the top of the eighth. Wilson started things off with a single to the gap in right field, and Person put him in scoring position with a sac bunt.

Wilson stole third base with three-hole hitter Michael Rhea at the plate, and scored the next at-bat on a sac fly to right field by Houston Kennedy, which put Fort Smith on top 3-1. Cabot added its final run in the bottom part of the inning.

Gavin Tillery singled to get on base in the bottom of the eighth. Hayden Vinson came in as Tillery’s courtesy runner, and he stole second base to get in scoring position.

Vinson later stole third base, and was able to score on the same play as Miller made a low throw to third that ended up in shallow left field. Cabot made a serious threat to tie it up in the ninth, but had some bad luck on its side.

Cleanup hitter Landon James singled to right center to lead off the bottom of the ninth, and advanced to second on a groundout to first by Grayson Cole. That brought catcher Tristan Bulice to the plate, and Bulice hit a hard line drive to left field.

James rounded third for what would’ve been a close play at the plate, but tripped up and fell halfway home, and was therefore tagged out on the play. Cabot wasn’t able to recover after that, and Fort Smith was able to escape with the hard-fought win.

Lawrence got the win on the mound. He went the distance and finished the complete game with nine strikeouts and two walks, but gave up eight Cabot hits. Although Lawrence had an overall solid game on the hill, Cabot coach Chris Gross thought his team could’ve and should’ve hit the ball better than it did against him.

“We shut it down,” said Gross. “For seven innings straight we quit swinging the bat and acted like we didn’t want to be here. Grayson Cole made a play in right (field) and all of a sudden everybody’s motivated, and we start hitting the ball.

“We outhit them. If we would’ve showed up to play we would’ve won that game. (Fort Smith) is a really good ball team. They all showed up. They wanted to play, we didn’t. I think we have enough talent and enough pitching to go a long way, but we’ll see if they show up (Tuesday). I know they want to play these guys again Wednesday, so maybe that’s what we needed.”

Cabot outhit Fort Smith 8-5 and Centennial Bank had no errors to Fort Smith’s one error.

Tillery and James led Cabot offensively with two hits each, while teammates Vocque, Logan, Bulice and Kason Kimbrell had one hit apiece.

Lawrence was the only player for Fort Smith with multiple hits. He was 2 for 4.

Cabot played North Little Rock last night after deadlines. Those two teams, along with Jacksonville and Fort Smith, were the last four teams left in the tournament as of Tuesday. Look for details of the Cabot/NLR game and the rest of the tournament in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.