Tuesday, July 29, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Comeback doesn’t hold

Leader sports editor

The Cabot-Centennial Bank senior American Legion team’s season came to an end in the third round of the state tournament in Bryant on Monday, but not until it had taken Jonesboro to 12 innings in the most exciting and eventful game of the tournament.

The Ricemen won it 9-8 on a two-out, RBI double in the bottom of the 12th, made possible by a controversial call earlier, when right fielder Gavin Tillery nearly gunned down Austin Martin as he stretched his single down the line into a double. He was called safe, but it was awfully close.

Three batters later after a pop-up to first and a walk, leadoff hitter Tucker Hydrick hit one just inches over the outstretched glove of left fielder Hayden Vinson to drive in the game-winning run.

Cabot, 20-13, trailed 7-0 after six innings before making a furious rally in the seventh and eighth innings, scoring four runs in each frame. But a pitching mistake helped Jonesboro tie it with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Tillery, who was Cabot’s fourth pitcher of the game and was throwing his third inning of the day after pitching six innings on Sunday, was trying to intentionally walk Jonesboro’s Mason Gibson. The Ricemen had one out and Hydrick on second base. Tillery’s ball-four pitch was high, but floated in within reach of Gibson, who slapped it over second base and into shallow right-center field to score Hydrick and tie the game.

“That was a big mistake and he knows it, but this isn’t really on him,” said Cabot coach Chris Gross. “I was giving him a hard time about it but he helped get us here. He wanted to go in the 12th inning but he was out of innings. You get nine innings every three days. I didn’t realize he went six against Jacksonville, but that’s what they told me. We were just out of pitching.”

Despite the disappointing nature of the loss, Gross was not disappointed in his team, especially after rallying from such a large deficit late in the game.

“I’m as proud of them as I can be,” Gross said. “They didn’t quit. You go into the seventh inning down 7-0, it’s easy to just want to hurry up and finish. And they were a little down, but when they saw they had something going, they were like ‘OK let’s do it’. And they did. So it’s good. I’m leaving here proud of them instead of (mad) at them.”

Cabot was so out of pitching, when Tillery was forced off the mound by rule, Gross had no one to turn to but starting pitcher Ryan Logan.

Zach Patterson, who had been the staff ace during the high school season and will report to Arkansas State in August, threw only three innings in the tournament, and gave up Jacksonville’s only two runs in Sunday’s 6-2 victory.

“He said his arm was bothering him a little so we couldn’t go to him,” Gross said.

Cabot flirted with danger each of the first three innings, allowing the leadoff hitter to reach each time. They got out of the jams in the first two innings with double plays, but Jonesboro posted four runs in the third on four base hits and a hit batter.

The Ricemen got two more on a single, an error and a two-RBI double in the fourth. After a scoreless fifth by relief pitcher Adam Hicks, another run crossed the plate in the sixth. Hicks gave up a leadoff single to cleanup hitter Nick Brown, who then stole second. Hicks got the next three batters in order, but not until throwing two wild pitches that allowed Brown to score.

Cabot’s rally started in the top of the sixth with a single to right field by Tristan Bulice. Two wild pitches moved him to third. Hicks walked but was caught stealing second for the first out. Grant Bell then struck out with Bulice still on third. Lee Sullivan then singled to left to score Bulice. Leadoff hitter Conner Vocque followed with another single to left field, where Jonesboro’s Seth Eakin was caught napping by Sullivan, who noticed Eakin slowly walking the ball in and not paying attention. Sullivan didn’t miss a stride in rounding second. Eakin tried to then hurry a throw to third, but it was off the mark and rolled to the Jonesboro dugout, allowing Sullivan to score on the play and leaving Vocque in scoring position.

Dylan Bowers then walked, and a pickoff attempt by Gibson was too high, scoring Vocque all the way from second and leaving Bowers safe at third. Logan then singled to center field to score Bowers and made it 7-4.

Cabot then took the lead in the eighth after Vinson threw a hitless bottom half of the seventh. That rally also started with Bulice, who went to the same spot, but this time off the wall for a double. Vinson hit a hard line drive to left that reached Eakin too quickly for Bulice to score. Bell grounded out to third that moved Vinson to second but left Bulice still on third. Vocque then hit a two-RBI single to center field, and moved to second when the throw went home to try to get Vinson. Bowers walked again and Logan singled to load the bases. Vocque then scored on a wild pitch to give Cabot the lead.

The stat lines were almost identical. Cabot scored its eight runs off 16 hits and left 11 on base. Jonesboro was only slightly more proficient, scoring nine runs off 16 hits and also leaving 11 stranded.

Logan gave up nine of those hits for Cabot, seven in the first four innings and two more in the 12th. Five of those nine hits went for extra bases. He also had two walks and two strikeouts. Hicks gave up two hits in his two innings on the mound. He struck out two and walked no one. Vinson faced just seven batters in his two innings, walking one, striking out one and giving up a hit to the last batter he officially faced. On the first pitch to the eighth batter, Bulice gunned the runner down trying to steal second base.

Tillery gave up four hits in the ninth, 10th and 11th innings, with the only run coming off the errant pitch-out. He threw only eight pitches in retiring the side in order in his last inning.

Cabot could simply get no offense going in its first-round game against Texarkana, a 3-1 loss. Sullivan went the whole nine innings on the mound for Cabot and pitched a gem. He scattered seven hits while striking out nine and walking just two. Only two of Texarkana’s runs were earned, but that was still enough for the win. Sullivan hit a bit of trouble in the second inning when he gave up both earned runs. Doubles by Landon Russo and Nathan Stubber sandwiched a single by Nick Myers to give Texarkana all the runs it needed.

Texarkana’s Zac Harrington also went the distance, giving up nine base hits, but the Centennial Bank squad could not push but one run across, despite loading the bases in the first and third innings. The lone run came in the fourth off a walk and a stolen base by Vocque. He moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Hicks and scored on a two-out single by Coleman McAtee. Cabot loaded the bases again in the eighth and got the leadoff runner on base in the ninth, but each time failed to score.