Wednesday, May 11, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot ladies defeat Eagles

Leader sports editor

The Lady Panther softball team got one final nonconference game squeezed into its schedule Friday before the Class 7A state tournament, and pulled out a 3-1 home victory over 5A-East champion Greene County Tech.

Cabot (22-3) went 14-0 in conference play and will carry the 7A-East’s No. 1 seed into the state tournament in Bryant. That means a bye for Thursday’s first round, and a 3 p.m. matchup on Friday against the winner between Conway, the three seed from the Central, and Rogers, the four seed from the West.

Cabot has not played Rogers, but did beat Conway 11-1 back on March 15.

In Friday’s game, Cabot scored one run in the bottom of the first inning and held that lead until the top of the sixth when a walk and a Lady Panther error allowed the Lady Eagles to tie the game with two outs.

In the first at-bat of the bottom of the sixth, leadoff hitter Leah Gerald got a big infield single to start the winning rally.

With one out, Tech returned the error favor by failing to catch a fly ball to right field by Heather Hill. That left Gerald and Hill in scoring position for Hannah Montgomery, who hit a hard line drive to left field to score Gerald while Hill stopped at third base.

Rachel Allgood then singled to center field to score Hill and set the final margin.

Cabot pitcher Lauren McCluskey retired GCT in order in the top of the seventh to seal the win.

Cabot’s first-inning run also started with a leadoff single by Gerald. She was moved to second base by a sacrifice bunt by Bethany Knowles. Hill popped up to second base for the second out, but Montgomery came through with an RBI line drive to center field.

Montgomery finished 2 for 2 with a walk and two RBIs to lead Cabot. Gerald went 2 for 3 and scored two runs while Allgood’s RBI was the only other base hit for the Lady Panthers.

Four different players got one hit apiece for the Lady Eagles.

McCluskey threw all seven innings, giving up four hits and no earned runs while striking out five and walking one.

McCluskey will likely be on the mound in Friday’s game. She has a 15-1 record as a starter with a 1.82 earned run average in 100 innings pitched this season. Montgomery is second on the team in IP with 24 1/3. She has a 4-1 record and a 1.15 ERA.

Hill leads the team and is among the best in the entire state at the plate. The Southern Miss signee has a .607 batting average this season, a .711 on base percentage and an outrageous slugging percentage of 1.148.

She leads the team in walks with 18, RBIs with 38, runs scored with 37, and shares the team lead with Hannah Montgomery in doubles with 10, and shares the team lead with Kaitlyn Felder in home runs with seven.