Tuesday, July 26, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot beats three at state

Leader sports editor

The Cabot AA American Legion baseball team won three straight games and advanced to the final of the winners’ bracket in the AA state tournament in Sheridan. The Centennial Bank squad has given up just two runs the entire tournament so far, including two shutouts and 18 scoreless innings in 19 innings of play.

“Our pitchers came to work and they’ve done an outstanding job for us,” said Cabot assistant coach Casey Vaughan after his squad beat host Sheridan 6-2 in the winners’ bracket semifinal on Sunday.

The Yellowjackets scored two runs in the first inning, but Cabot pitcher Michael Shepherd settled in and gave up just one base hit over the final six frames.

Sheridan’s Hunter Hicks and Austyn Wright hit back-to-back doubles to start the bottom of the first, with Wright’s shot scoring Hicks. Wright later scored on an error at third base, but Shepherd shut them down the rest of the way.

“He got off to a little bit of a rough start,” Vaughan said. “They hit him pretty hard early and wemade some mistakes behind him, but he never got discouraged. He really showed his determination in the way he came back and pitched the rest of the game.”

Despite the two runs in the bottom of the first, it wasn’t enough to put Sheridan in the lead. Cabot scored three runs without a base hit in the top half of the inning.

Caleb Harpole reached on an error at second base, Dylan Thomas was hit and Gavin Tillery walked to load the bases with no outs. Easton Seidl and Logan Edmondson drove in runs with sacrifice grounders and Tillery scored on an error at shortstop off the bat of Michael Crumbly.

After Sheridan cut the margin to one, Cabot set the final margin in the top of the second. Jack Broyles and Shepherd drew back-to-back walks to start the inning. Harpole then doubled to center field to score both base runners. Two batters later, Tillery singled to right field to score Harpole for the 6-2 lead.

Shepherd, who struck out the final batter in the bottom of the first, made it three-straight by fanning the first two batters of the second. He then got nine-hole hitter Montana Korte to pop up to third base to get out of the inning on just nine pitches.

It was the first of four-straight, three-up, three-down innings for Shepherd. He hit Hicks with a pitch to start the sixth inning, and Wright followed that up with a double to right-center field, but Harpole saved the run. He fielded the ball on one-hop on a dead run, spun and flung the ball on target into the infield, forcing Hicks to stop at third base.

That still left runners at second and third with no outs, but Sheridan failed to score.

Nick Whitley hit a hard grounder to shortstop, where Thomas made the stop before holding Hicks at third and getting Wright out in a rundown between second and third.

Cleanup hitter Evan Thompson then hit a hard grounder between shortstop and second base, where Thomas made the stop before stepping on second to get Whitley, and throwing to first for the 6-3 double play.

Shepherd got back to his old ways in the bottom of the seventh, getting Nathan Kirkpatrick to ground out to second base before striking out the final two batters to seal the victory.

Shepherd gave up three hits while striking out eight and hitting one batter.

Cabot only managed four hits, but added five walks and a hit batter.

Cabot opened the tournament on Friday with a 13-0 win over Crossett, busting open a tie game in the third inning with seven runs when Crossett’s pitching fell apart.

Broyles drew a leadoff walk before Shepherd and Harpole were hit by pitches. Thomas singled to drive in two runs and Tillery’s groundout to first drove in Harpole. Seidl and Crumbly got RBI base hits before Koletan Eastham was hit and Broyles hit a two-RBI double on his second at-bat of the inning.

The Centennial Bank squad added six more in the fourth inning on four walks, two singles, an error and a double by Thomas.

Shepherd started that game on the mound, and was pulled before hitting the pitch limit that required two days rest. He threw three innings of no-hit baseball, facing the minimum nine batters with three strikeouts and no walks.

Caleb Wilson pitched the final two innings. He gave up a two-out walk and a base hit in the fourth inning, and retired the side in order in the fifth.

“We hit it really well and we were disciplined at the plate,” Vaughan said. “That was really big for us to get that one over within five because it saved our pitching and we were able to come back with Shepherd today. Thomas went 2 for 3 with four RBIs in the win over Crossett. Harpole, Seidl and Crumbly all had two base hits on Friday.

Tillery got the shutout victory on the mound in Saturday’s 5-0 win over Central Arkansas Christian. He threw seven innings and gave up just three base hits, finishing with just one walk, along with nine strikeouts.

Cabot took the early lead with a single run in the first inning. Harpole and Thomas got back-to-back base hits, with Thomas’ shot scoring Harpole for a 1-0 lead.

Thomas then scored the first of two runs in the third inning. His grounder to shortstop got Harpole thrown out on a fielder’s choice. Tillery then singled to put runners on the corners, and Seidl’s single to right field scored Thomas. Tillery then scored when Edmondson’s grounder to shortstop was mishandled, giving Cabot a 3-0 lead.

The final two runs of the game came in the bottom of the fourth inning, and the rally started when Geno Germer took a pitch off the arm with one out. Broyles singled to put runners on first and third. Harpole’s fly ball to left scored Germer and Thomas singled to drive in the game’s final run.

“We were prepared for a slow start this summer because we had some guys that hadn’t played much,” Vaughan said. “But they’re playing great right now. It’s the same guys we’ve been going with all season. They’ve stuck with it and they’re coming around.”

Cabot (14-11) will face Magnet Cove at 5 p.m. Friday in the final of the winners’ bracket.