Friday, April 24, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers sweep Wildcats

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot baseball team earned a 7A-East Conference sweep over North Little Rock this week. On Tuesday at Burns Park, the Panthers scored three runs in each of the third and fourth innings to win 6-3, and on Thursday at Brian Wade Conrade Memorial Field in Cabot, the Panthers shut out the Charging Wildcats 3-0.

The first two innings of Thursday’s game were scoreless, but Cabot scored the only run it would need in the bottom of the third. With two outs in the inning, Dylan Bowers walked, and Blake McCutchen reached on an error at shortstop.

Before Tristan Bulice was intentionally walked the following at-bat, Bowers scored on a passed ball at home plate, putting Cabot up 1-0. The score remained 1-0 until the bottom of the fifth, when Cabot set the final score with two more runs.

Bowers hit a one-out single to center field to start that rally, and McCutchen singled the next at-bat. Bowers advanced to third on McCutchen’s single, and with runners at the corners, Bulice was intentionally walked for the second time, which loaded the bases.

Landon James then reached on a fielder’s choice at second base, and picked up an RBI on the play as Bowers scored from third. McCutchen advanced to third on James’ sacrifice, and scored the next at-bat on Denver Mullins’ third single of the game. That gave the Panthers their 3-0 lead.

North Little Rock’s best chance to score after that was in the top of the sixth. The Charging Wildcats had two on with one out, but winning pitcher Chase Kyzer got out of the jam by getting the two outs needed the next two at-bats, the last of which was a strikeout.

In the top of the seventh, Kyzer retired the side to end the game. He struck out the first two batters he faced before a 6-3 groundout put the stamp on Cabot’s win.

“Our pitching’s been big all year for us,” said Cabot coach Ronnie Goodwin. “We haven’t really gotten blown out in games. We’ve had one or two hiccups, but outside of that our pitching has given us a chance.

“Today, I thought we left a little bit on the table, offensively. We made a few base-running blunders. But, we took advantage of their mistakes when we had opportunities to, and you just can’t say enough about Chase Kyzer. The name of the game today was Chase Kyzer.”

In addition to getting the complete-game shutout win over NLR on Thursday, Kyzer earned a save against NLR on Tuesday. Gavin Tillery earned the win Tuesday. He pitched the first five and two-third innings before being relieved by Kyzer. Tillery finished that game with five strikeouts.

Cabot outhit NLR 11-6 on Tuesday. Bowers, Bulice and Jonathan Latture led the Panthers with two hits apiece. On Thursday, Cabot and NLR each had five hits, with Mullins leading all batters – going 3 for 3 with an RBI.

With this week’s wins, the Panthers improved their record to 12-7 overall and 7-3 in conference play, but they’re now 2-0 against 7A-East teams, which is what matters as far as playoff seeding.

“We’re 2-0 now in these 7A games, which is really what’s important as far as getting to the postseason,” Goodwin said. “It’s like I told our players, all the games up to now were kind of preseason games to figure out what we have.

“Seven-A games are really your season, and if you want to play in the postseason, you’ve got to take care of your season. Unfortunately, the way it’s set up there’s only a six-game season.”

With the two losses to Cabot, North Little Rock’s record fell to 9-9 overall and 0-2 against 7A-East teams.

The Panthers will look to improve to 3-0 in 7A-East play Wednesday at home against Little Rock Central. That game is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.