Tuesday, July 21, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot qualifies for state

Leader sports editor

Cabot’s Centennial Bank senior American Legion team won two games at the Zone 3 tournament it hosted and qualified for the state tournament that begins Thursday in Fort Smith.

After opening the tournament with a 13-1 rout of rival Jacksonville, Cabot followed that with a dominant pitching performance from Gavin Tillery for a 9-1 win over Russellville in the second round.

Cabot’s pitching continued to dominate for eight innings in the finals of the winners’ bracket against Fort Smith. Centennial Bank was close to of pulling off the upset when it led the 26-3 Kerwins team 5-1 going into the last inning, but gave up five runs in that inning to let the win slip away.

Cabot coach Chris Gross felt like his team deserved to win the Fort Smith game.

“We had two strike-three calls we didn’t get that ended up being walks for them,” said Gross. “Then we had outs at first and third that were missed. The one at third was really bad. We outplayed them in every aspect of the game. They just caught all the breaks at the end.”

That loss dropped Cabot to the losers’ bracket, where it did not perform so well on Monday. The Centennial Bank squad dropped a 15-3 decision to Conway and was eliminated from the tournament. That loss, however, wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, according to Gross, since a win meant turning right around and playing Fort Smith in a nightcap after the 4 p.m. start against Conway.

“We’ve played four games in four days in this heat,” Gross said. “We’re exhausted. If they had to play another game tonight, I don’t know if they’d want to play this weekend. If you beat Fort Smith (Monday) you’ve got to come right back and play them again Tuesday. Then you have to start the state tournament in Forth Smith on Thursday. I’ve never wanted to lose a game before, but losing this one isn’t so bad.”

In Saturday’s win over Russellville, Tillery scattered eight hits over nine innings. It wasn’t until the sixth inning that Russellville got more than one hit in an inning, and the Cogswell Motors team didn’t get an extra base hit until the seventh, when it finally scored it’s first and only run.

Braxton Sampley hit a leadoff double and Kyle Frost got a two-out single to drive in the lone Russellville run.

Tillery, who also signed with UCA on Tuesday, struck out four and walked two. He walked none over the last six innings.

Offensively, Cabot took a quick lead when it scored two runs with two outs in the top of the first inning. Brett Brockinton got the two-out rally started by drawing a walk. Logan Kirkendoll singled to score Brockinton and Tillery singled to score Kirkendoll.

That’s how it remained until the fourth inning when two walks were followed by a Conway error, giving Cabot a 3-0 lead.

In the fifth inning, base hits by Brockinton and Kirkendoll were followed by another two-run error that gave Cabot a 5-0 lead. Russellville’s run in the seventh was answered by a three-run rally by Cabot in the eighth.

Blake McCutchen and Logan Gilbertson hit back-to-back singles to start the inning. Logan Edmondson then doubled to drive in both base runners. He later scored on a sacrifice grounder by Dylan Bowers that made the score 8-1.

Cabot set the final margin in the top of the ninth. Brockinton hit a leadoff triple, and scored when Tillery got another RBI base hit.

Kirkendoll and Tillery led Cabot with two base hits apiece.

Against Fort Smith on Sunday, Cabot led 2-1 before posting three runs in the eighth inning. It started with a leadoff double by Braden Jarnigan. He scored on a base hit by Austin Null. Dylan Bowers and Lee Sullivan then hit back-to-back singles, with Sullivan’s base hit scoring Null. With two outs, Kirkendoll singled to score Bowers and give Cabot a 5-1 lead.

Fort Smith’s rally in the bottom of the ninth included three hits and three walks, with Will Klek hitting a two-run, walk-off single to end the game.

Kirkendoll had a phenomenal tournament at the plate. In the four games combined, he hit .471 by going 8 for 17 at the plate, scored six runs and drove in five more.