Tuesday, May 19, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot brushes off Van Buren, earns title bid

Leader sportswriter

ROGERS – A two-hitter by Cabot junior Kaitlyn Felder and a Rachel Allgood home run helped catapult the Lady Panthers to a 4-0 win over Van Buren in the semifinals of the Class 7A state softball tournament Saturday at Veterans Park.

The win sets up a third meeting this season with North Little Rock in the Class 7A state championship game at 10 a.m. Friday at Bogle Park in Fayetteville.

Cabot (27-4), the No. 1 East seed, swept NLR (20-8), the No. 2 East seed, in their two 7A/6A-East Conference games in late April.

In Saturday’s semifinal against Van Buren (24-5), the No. 2 Central seed, the Lady Panthers scored their first run in the bottom of the second inning on Allgood’s solo home run that sailed over the fence in right field.

The one-out bomb helped set the tone for what was to come in the third and fourth innings.

“I think it woke us up a little bit and got things going, knowing that we could come out and score some runs,” said Cabot coach Chris Cope of Allgood’s home run, “and it kept us going for about three innings.”

Cabot added to its lead in the bottom of the third with two more runs. The Lady Panthers took a 2-0 lead on a one-out single up the middle by three-hole hitter Megan Goodnight.

Shortstop Heather Hill scored from second on the play, after singling earlier in the inning and Goodnight went to second base on the throw home. Goodnight scored two batters later on a two-out single to right field off the bat of Erin Eckert, which put the Lady Panthers up 3-0.

Cabot scored the game’s final run in the fourth inning. In that inning, Macee Abbott reached on a fielder’s choice at second base. Parker Steadman came in to run for Abbott. Steadman advanced to second base on a passed ball, and scored on a two-out double to deep right center by Hill, which set the final score.

Felder gave up Van Buren’s only two hits of the game the next inning, but that was the only time the Lady Pointers threatened to score. In the top of the seventh, Felder retired the side, striking out the final two batters, to end the game and send the Lady Panthers to the program’s second-ever state championship game.

“Felder came out and had a great outing and kept them off balance,” Cope said. “She did well and our defense made some good plays behind her and she did what we asked her to do.”

Felder gave credit to the defense behind her after the game, and said her curveball is what helped keep Van Buren’s hitters off balance.

“Nobody could touch the curve and the backdoor curve,” said Felder, “and the defense backed me up really well.”

Felder threw all seven innings and finished the complete game with nine strikeouts, allowing just two walks and the two hits. Cabot had eight hits total for the game. Goodnight led all batters, going 3 for 3 with three singles, an RBI and run scored.

Hill was 2 for 3 with an RBI and run scored, and Felder, Eckert and Allgood had one hit each.

Cabot got to Saturday’s semifinal with an 8-4 come-from-behind win over Springdale Har-Ber in Friday’s quarterfinal round. The Lady Panthers trailed 4-1 going into the bottom of the sixth inning, but reeled off seven-straight runs in that inning to beat the No. 3 West seed Lady Wildcats and advance to Saturday’s semifinals.

North Little Rock has won the last two Class 7A state softball championships. The Lady Charging Wildcats got to this year’s finals by beating No. 6 West seed Fort Smith Northside 8-5 in the first round Thursday, No. 1 West seed Rogers 2-0 in the quarterfinals Friday, and No. 1 Central seed Bryant 6-1 in the semis on Saturday.

Cabot beat NLR by scores of 6-1 and 6-5 in their late April meetings, but Friday’s game has everything riding on it.

“You couldn’t ask for a better match-up,” Cope said. “We’re going to see what happens on Friday.”