Wednesday, March 25, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers secure a sweep in twin bill

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers picked up their first and second wins of the season on Friday, and moved to 2-0 in conference play with a doubleheader sweep of the Searcy Lions in Searcy.

Southpaw pitcher Gavin Tillery threw a complete-game four hitter in leading the Panthers to a 3-0 win in game one. In game two, Cabot had a big second inning at the plate and got six innings of three-hit ball from pitcher Chase Kyzer to earn a 6-2 victory.

The first two innings of game one went by in a flash. Cabot’s first six batters went down in order and Tillery gave up just one base hit in the bottom of the second.

The Panthers finally got some offense going in the top of the third. Playing as the visiting team in game one, Dylan Bowers led off the inning with a bloop single to right field, which was followed by a line-drive single by Eric Larsen. Blake McCutchen was asked to sacrifice bunt to move the runners into scoring position, but he laid a perfect one and reached base safely, leaving the bases loaded.

Leadoff hitter Evan Hooper hit a fly ball to center field for the first out, but it was deep enough to score Bowers after tagging up. Denver Mullins then walked to load the bases again with one out, but a strikeout and a groundout followed to end the rally.

Searcy got a leadoff single to start the bottom of the third, but Tillery got a pop-up to center field and struck out two batters to hold the Lions at bay.

The Panthers got a pair of one-out base hits in the fourth, but were unable again to capitalize.

The Panthers got two runners on with one out in the top of the fifth when Hooper singled and Mullins walked. One out later, Tristan Bulice singled to right field, where an error was made on the hop. Hooper scored on the error, but courtesy runner Jake Slunder was thrown out at home on the play.

Searcy got a one-out base hit in the top of the fifth, but still went down in order. Tillery got a groundout and a strikeout in the inning, and catcher Landon James threw out the runner attempting to steal third base to end the inning.

Logan Kirkendoll got a leading single to start the top of the sixth for Cabot and stole second base. He advanced to third on a groundout by Jonathan Latture. After a fly out to right field by Bowers, Kirkendoll stole home during Larsen’s at bat to set the final margin.

Tillery was outstanding on the mound, striking out nine and walking no one.

Bowers went 2 for 3 to lead Cabot offensively while Hooper, Mullins, Bulice, Kirkendoll, Latture and McCutchen each got one base hit. Bulice went 2 for 3 with an RBI in game two and Bowers got a two-RBI base hit to aid the Panthers’ cause.

Searcy scored first in the top of the first inning, but Cabot answered with four runs in the second. Bulice started the rally with a leadoff, line-drive double to right field. Kirkendoll then reached on a throwing error that also scored Bulice. Latture then hit a double deep into the gap in left-center field.

Bowers then made it three doubles in the inning with his two-RBI shot to straightaway center to make it 3-1. With one out, McCutchen put down a sacrifice bunt but another error left him safe at second base and allowed Bowers to score from second.

The rally finally ended with back-to-back grounders to shortstop by Mullins and Hooper.

Cabot made it 5-1 in the third on a double by James and another Searcy error. In the fifth inning, Mullins singled to lead things off and scored on a single by Bulice with one out.

Searcy got a little offense going in its last at-bat with a leadoff double and an RBI single with one out, but Larsen fanned the last two batters to seal the victory.

Kyzer struck out eight and walked two in his six innings of work, while giving up just one earned run.