Saturday, May 23, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Wildcats explode early, take title from Panthers

Leader sportswriter

FAYETTEVILLE – North Little Rock entered Friday’s Class 7A state softball championship game at Bogle Park with big-game experience that Cabot didn’t have.

It showed from the start. The Charging Lady Wildcats scored early and often en route to their third-straight 7A state championship victory with a 10-3 win over Cabot.

Cabot, which ended its season with a 27-5 overall record, swept North Little Rock (21-8) in their 7A-East Conference games in late April, but Friday’s game was a different story from the very first at-bat.

NLR junior second baseman Sydney Parr led off the game with a triple to deep right-center field, setting the tone for what was to come. She scored the next at-bat on a stand-up double to the left-center gap off the bat of Morgan Seaton, and the Lady Cats scored two more runs in the top of the first to lead 3-0 after one.

“I think it helped us a lot when we got three runs in the first inning,” said NLR coach Anthony Cantrell. “Sydney Parr leading the game off with a triple – she did the same thing against Rogers two years ago in the state championship game and had three triples that day.

“That kind of got us started, and we just didn’t turn around from there.”

The Lady Cats added three more runs to their side of the board in the top of the second – the highlight of which was a two-run home run by catcher Mckenzie Escovedo that made it a 6-0 game. All three of NLR’s runs in the second inning came with two outs.

Cabot did put a run on the board in the bottom of the third. Ashlyn Spears and Macee Abbott drew back-to-back walks to lead off the inning, and leadoff hitter Heather Hill drove in Spears the next at-bat with a line-drive single to center field.

Still with no outs in the inning, the Lady Panthers loaded the bases when Bethany Knowles was hit by a pitch after Hill’s RBI single, but NLR winning pitcher Rachel Gregory retired Cabot’s three-through-five hitters to get out of the jam.

The Lady Charging Wildcats went on their next scoring tear in the fifth. They scored four runs in that inning to push their lead to 10-1. Ashton Bobbitt scored the first run in the fifth on a wild pitch with the bases loaded.

Cassidy Tucker scored the eighth NLR run on a sacrifice fly to center field off the bat of Lydia Belew. A two-out single up the middle by Parr made it a 9-1 game, and Seaton drove in Parr the next at-bat with her third hit of the game and second double, which made the score 10-1.

Despite being down nine runs after five innings of play, Cabot didn’t quit, and added two more runs to their side of the board in the bottom of the sixth.

Both of the Lady Panthers’ runs scored in the sixth came on bases-loaded walks. Hill earned the first RBI that inning with a one-out walk that scored Hannah Montgomery, who was hit by a pitch earlier in the inning.

With two outs, Megan Goodnight drew the second RBI walk of the inning. Parker Steadman scored that run as a courtesy runner for Abbott, who reached base on a single three batters earlier.

That was all the damage Cabot could do, though, the rest of the way, and the game ended in the bottom of the seventh on a 9-3 double play.

“We didn’t start out good,” said Cabot coach Chris Cope. “They (NLR) had three good innings of hitting and we only had two, but they scored more runs than we did today. We could’ve given up a long time ago, but we didn’t and I’m proud of my girls.

“We made it to the finals for the second time in Cabot history and we accomplished several goals that we wanted to this year, and 27-5, that’s nothing to look bad on.”

NLR outhit Cabot 10-2 Friday. Seaton led all batters, going 3 for 4 with three RBIs. Parr and Bobbitt had two hits each, while Escovedo, Tucker and Bailey Harris had one hit apiece.

Hill and Abbott had Cabot’s two hits, both of which were singles.

Gregory earned the win in the circle. The senior threw all seven innings and walked nine batters and plunked three more, but gave up just two hits and recorded a game-high three strikeouts.