Friday, March 25, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot wins last three at Memphis

Leader sports editor

Few high school baseball players get a full spring break, but none were quite as busy as the Cabot Panthers have been since school let out last Friday. The Panthers played two games that weekend in Oxford, Miss., before playing four games in the Best of the West Tournament in Memphis on Wednesday and Thursday. They went 4-2 in six games over six days.

The Panthers opened play in Oxford with a 7-2 victory over Olive Branch, Miss. Sophomore Dylan Billingsley threw four innings of one-hit ball and Cabot held a 3-2 lead when he left it to junior Logan Gilbertson. Gilbertson gave up five hits in three innings, but didn’t allow a run. Cabot posted four runs in the top of the seventh to set the final margin. Both teams finished with six base hits, but Cabot walked eight times and was better at capitalizing with runners in scoring position.

Jake Slunder went 1 for 2 and drove in three runs, two with his double in the seventh inning. Bobby Joe Duncan and Denver Mullins led Cabot with two hits apiece.

Later that day, Oxford pitcher Carson Stinnett shut out Cabot. He went all seven innings and allowed just three hits while striking out six Panthers in a 4-0 victory. Braden Jarnigan, Eric Larsen and Duncan got the hits for Cabot.

In the first game in Memphis, the Panthers mucked it up on defense and dropped a 5-4 decision to Briarcrest Christian School of Eads, Tenn. Chase Kyzer gave up six hits and four runs over six innings, but only one of those runs were earned. Brodey Schluter took the mound for Cabot in the seventh and the Panthers gave up another unearned run that gave BCS the victory. Cabot committed four errors to zero for BCA while both teams had seven base hits.

Cabot led 4-0 when the Saints came to bat in the bottom of the third. They earned their first two runs on four-straight base hits, but Cabot errors led the all three remaining runs. But the final run in the third came on an infield error. The tying run in the bottom of the fifth came on a two-out base hit after a leadoff error started the inning. The winning run in the bottom of the seventh was the result of Duncan’s second error of the game.

Cabot took an early lead when Blake McCutchen drew a leadoff walk, stole second, moved to third on a sacrifice by Duncan and scored on a sac fly by Mullins. A leadoff walk in the second by Larsen led to a sac fly by Jarnigan for a 2-0 Cabot lead. The Panthers made it 4-0 in the third on three-straight base hits, including a single by McCutchen, a Duncan double and another RBI single by Mullins.

The Panthers closed the week with three-straight victories. In their second game on Wednesday, the Panthers beat Collierville, Tenn., 5-2 behind a 13-strikeout performance on the mound by Gilbertson. He threw all seven innings, gave up three hits, four walks and no earned runs.

Cabot trailed 1-0 after two innings, but got four of its five runs in the top of the third. The rally started with a one-out walk by Brian Tillery. McCutchen singled and Duncan reached on an error at first base that allowed Tillery and McCutchen to score and moved Duncan to second base.

Mullins moved him to third with a groundout, and Larsen singled to center field to bring him home for a 3-1 lead. Slunder then walked and Jarnigan singled to left field to score Larsen.

Cabot’s final run came after a leadoff walk by Zach Morris was followed by an RBI base hit by McCutchen, who went 3 for 4 at the plate.

In the early game on Thursday, Cabot came from behind in the bottom of the last inning to win a wild game against Jackson Christian School, 13-12.

Cabot got 11 hits and JCS committed five errors to help Cabot out. The Eagles took a 7-0 lead in the top of the second as Billingsley struggled with the strike zone. The hard-throwing sophomore gave up one hit and no runs in the first inning, but failed to record an out in six batters faced in the second. He gave up two hits, three walks and hit a batter before yielding to Schluter. Two more runs after Schluter entered were charged to Billingsley.

But Cabot answered right back in the bottom of the same inning with its own seven-run rally.

It started with a one-out single by Dylan Thomas. Brett Brockinton and Rail Gillam walked to load the bases. Tillery entered as Gillam’s courtesy runner and McCutchen singled to center field to score Thomas. Duncan then hit a two-RBI double to center, and McCutchen scored on a wild pitch during Mullins’ at-bat. Mullins then singled to put runners on the corners for Larsen, who hit an RBI single to pull Cabot to within 7-5.

A passed ball advanced both runners into scoring position and Slunder singled to left to score Mullins. Larsen scored on a fielder’s choice at second base by Jarnigan that got Slunder thrown out at second, and the game was even again.

Cabot took a two-run lead with a triple by McCutchen, a single by Mullins and a JCS error in the third inning. The Eagles to one back in the fourth, and then scored four runs in the top of the sixth to take a 12-9 lead.

Michael Sheppard took the mound for Cabot to start the sixth inning and hit the first batter he faced. He then gave up a single, a double and a triple that gave JCS an 11-9 lead. But he retired the next three batters in order, giving up a sacrifice grounder in the process.

The Panthers got two back in the bottom of the sixth and won it with two more in the bottom of the seventh.

Mullins singled to start the sixth and Tillery ran for him. He moved to second on an errant pick-off throw, and to third groundout by Slunder. With two outs, Jarnigan drew a walk and Thomas hit double to right field that scored Tillery, and Jarnigan scored on a wild pitch to make it 12-11 JCS.

Sheppard settled in after the rough start, and retired the side in four batters in the top of the seventh.

Two walks and an error left the bases loaded with no outs for Cabot in the bottom of the seventh. Larsen then hit a hard grounder to shortstop that got McCutchen thrown out at home for the first out. Slunder took a pitch off the arm to drive in the tying run, and Jarnigan singled to left for the game winner.

Mullins reached base on every at-bat, going 3 for 3 with two walks. His courtesy runner, Tillery, scored three times. McCutchen went 2 for 4 with a two runs scored, a walk and an RBI. Duncan, Slunder and Jarnigan all went 1 for 4 with two RBIs and Thomas went 2 for 4 with a run and an RBI.

Sheppard got the win while Schluter went four innings, giving up two hits, two earned runs and two walks while striking out four.

Cabot closed the event Thursday evening with a 3-0 win in a five-inning game against Dyer County of Newbern, Tenn. Morris threw all five innings and gave up just three hits while striking out one and walking two. Cabot scored one run in the first and two in the fifth, with Larsen going 2 for 3 to lead the way. Larsen, Slunder and Mullins each drove in one run as Cabot compiled eight base hits. The Panthers (7-4, 1-1) will play a nonconference game at Benton on Monday before heading to Marion for a 7A/6A-East doubleheader at Marion on Thursday.