Tuesday, April 12, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot capitalizes, Red Devils don’t

Leader sportswriter

Timely hits were the key to the Cabot baseball team’s 10-6 win over Jacksonville in a nonconference game Thursday at Dupree Park. The Red Devils outhit the Panthers 11-10 and the hosts committed one fewer error, but Jacksonville left 12 runners on base and Cabot did the better job of capitalizing with runners in scoring position.

“We had one more (error) than them and one less hit and somehow we win the game 10-6,” said Cabot coach Ronnie Goodwin. “Baseball’s a funny game. I remember a game last year we hit nine balls hard and the other team hit two balls hard and we lost the game 2-1.

“Timely hitting is the name of the game in this game, but I thought we took really, really good swings for the most part today. We kept forcing the action and putting pressure on them (Jacksonville).”

Both teams scored their first two runs in the second inning, but Cabot (13-5, 5-1) scored the next six to take an 8-2 lead. Four of those runs came in the top of the third.

Catcher Denver Mullins reached on an error at second base to lead off the third inning, but Eric Larsen hit into a 6-4 fielder’s choice the next at-bat. Jake Slunder and Braden Jarnigan followed with consecutive singles to load the bases, and Dylan Thomas hit a bases-clearing double to right center the next at-bat.

That gave Cabot a 5-2 lead, and Thomas scored two batters later on an infield single to shortstop by Logan Gilbertson. The Panthers added two more runs in the fourth.

Bobby Joe Duncan led off the fourth inning with a walk and Mullins singled to left field the next at-bat. Larsen then hit into a fielder’s choice at third base, but everyone was safe on the play, loading the bases.

Slunder then hit into a 1-2 fielder’s choice for the first out of the inning, but Jarnigan drove in Logan Edmondson, Mullins’ courtesy runner, the following at-bat with a sac fly to center field. Brett Brockinton flew out to right field the next at-bat for the third out, but not before Larsen scored on a passed ball, giving Cabot the 8-2 cushion.

Jacksonville (5-12, 3-3) scored one run each in the bottom of the fourth and fifth innings. Red Devil leadoff hitter Kameron Whitmore doubled to start the bottom of the fourth. He advanced to third base on a passed ball and scored on a Mike Havard groundout to first base.

In the bottom of the fifth, JHS catcher Javan Wakefield started things off with a single to left field. He stole second base and later scored on a sac fly by Tyson Flowers, which cut the Panthers’ lead to 8-4.

Cabot answered with two more runs in the top of the sixth. Larsen led off the inning with a single. Slunder followed that at-bat with a single, and Jarnigan drove in both runners with a standup double to right center on a hit-and-run play, giving CHS the six-run lead.

“The hit and run Jarnigan got later in the game – you know, if we don’t get that two-RBI double there on a hit and run, that game might get a little heady there at the end,” Goodwin said.

Jacksonville came back with two runs in the bottom of the seventh, but it wasn’t enough to get back in the game. Jordan Wickersham started things off with a one-out walk. Flowers sacrificed him to second base with a bunt, and Whitmore then reached on an error at shortstop, putting runners at the corners.

With Havard at the plate, Wickersham scored Jacksonville’s fifth run on a wild pitch, which also advanced Whitmore to second base, and he scored on Havard’s two-out double to right center, and that set the final score.

“We’ve been on the other end of a lot of games this year,” said Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows, “and, you know, I keep telling them to work hard and we’re going to start getting the break we need. We’re going to get that hit they need. We’re so close.”

In addition, Burrows would like to see his players do a better job of playing more for each other and the team.

“We’ve just got to play together more,” Burrows said. “I don’t know that there’s the desire to win for each other, and that’s what I was talking to them about (postgame). I think that’s pretty much it in a nutshell. We have enough ability. Obviously, we don’t have as much as we had last year. But we have enough ability and we’ve gotten better every week, just individually. But that’s what we’ve got to do is get better as a team.”

Havard led Jacksonville at the plate Thursday, going 3 for 4 with three RBIs. Whitmore, Brandon Hickingbotham, Caden Sample and Wakefield each had two hits for the Red Devils.

Slunder led Cabot offensively, going 3 for 3 with three runs scored. Jarnigan had two hits for the Panthers, and Blake McCutchen, Mullins, Larsen, Thomas and Gilbertson had one apiece.

Brodey Schluter got the win on the mound. He took to the hill with one out in the bottom of the second with the score tied at 2-2, and pitched through the sixth inning, finishing with three strikeouts.

The Panthers also got a pair of 7A/6A-East Conference wins at Mountain Home on Friday. Cabot beat the Bombers 13-0 in the first game of the twinbill, and edged the hosts in the nightcap with a 7-5 victory.

Jacksonville was off Friday, and resumed 5A-Central Conference play last night at Pulaski Academy after deadlines.

The Panthers also had a conference doubleheader last night. Theirs was at home against Jonesboro. Look for scores and details on those games in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.