Monday, March 30, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Panther rally in final inning tops Cyclones

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot baseball team overcame a one-run deficit by scoring two runs in the final inning of play to beat Russellville 3-2 in the first round of the Central Arkansas Invitational tournament at Lamar Porter Field in Little Rock on Thursday.

Cabot trailed 2-1 heading into the last inning, but got a much-needed hit to start it off. Second baseman Blake McCutchen led off the top of the seventh with a single up the middle of the diamond. It was Cabot’s fourth hit of the game.

Cabot leadoff hitter Evan Hooper then came to the plate, and walked, giving the Panthers two runners on the bases with no outs. Third baseman Logan Kirkendoll was next up, and he laid down a sacrifice bunt.

McCutchen and Hooper both had good running starts on the bunt. Russellville pitcher Garrett Freeman picked up the bunt and first looked to third base. When he realized he wouldn’t be able to throw out McCutchen at third, he went to first, but had to rush his throw because of his first look at third.

Freeman’s throw to first was too high as a result, leaving all runners safe for three-hole hitter Tristan Bulice. With no outs, Bulice hammered a stand-up double to deep center field, scoring McCutchen and Hooper and setting the final score in the process.

Relief pitcher Logan Gilbertson retired the side in the bottom of the seventh, giving himself and the Panthers the win.

It was quite a comeback considering the Panthers’ bats had been relatively quiet for most of the game. Russellville standout pitcher Mark Moyer had a lot to do with that. He gave up three hits and one earned run in his five innings of work, and had seven strikeouts to just one walk.

“I knew coming into it if it was going to be high-scoring it might not be on our end, just because that’s one of the best arms in the state,” said Cabot coach Ronnie Goodwin of Moyer. “That’s a Division-1 kid on the mound.

“He had a really good breaking ball, threw a slider, and when you have an upper 80s, 90 mile-per-hour fastball, and three complimentary pitches for strikes, it’s tough on a high school hitter, especially a group as young as us – only returning one hitter from last year’s lineup. But I thought our kids actually did really well against him.

“We hit a lot of balls hard and created a lot of opportunities. He (Moyer) made some pitches to get out of some of those, but we did a nice a job of creating opportunities, and we definitely didn’t lay over against him. I thought we really competed well against him.”

Goodwin credited his pitching for giving Cabot an opportunity in the seventh inning. Brett Brockinton started on the mound for Cabot, and threw the first four and one-third innings before being relieved by Gilbertson.

Brockinton gave up only one earned run on two hits, and recorded three strikeouts while walking four. Gilbertson officially earned the win. He finished the game with six strikeouts and one walk, and gave up only one hit and no earned runs.

“What really gave us a chance was our pitching,” Goodwin said. “The game could’ve gotten away from us. Our kids just kept competing. They believe that they can win games with coaching and good competition up to this point.

“I think we had five sophomores in the lineup today. So for young guys to get a win against a quality opponent, and against two arms like that, that’s big for our program.”

Cabot scored its first run of the game on a 6-3 groundout by catcher Denver Mullins in the top of the first inning. Hooper scored on the play. He hit an infield single to start the game, and advanced to second base on a Kirkendoll walk the next at-bat and to third base on a 6-4 fielder’s choice by Bulice.

Russellville’s two runs came in the bottom part of the inning. The Cyclones’ first run came on a RBI single to right field by Moyer, which drove in Freeman, who doubled to left field the previous at-bat.

With two outs, Russellville scored its final run on an error at third base off the bat of Brock Mathis. 

Cabot outhit Russellville 5-3. Hooper, Kirkendoll, Bulice, Mullins and McCutchen each had one hit for the Panthers, and Moyer, Freeman and Ryan Meador each had one hit for the Cyclones.

The Panthers (3-2, 2-0) continued play in the Central Arkansas Invitational yesterday, and they’ll wrap up the tournament this weekend. Look for details of how Cabot finished the tournament in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.