Friday, March 31, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot girls overcome errors in league win

Leader sports editor

The Lady Panther softball team overcame a bad defensive start with some timely hitting to beat Conway 5-2 Tuesday in an important 7A-Central matchup at Cabot.

The Lady Panthers didn’t score with every opportunity after piling up 13 base hits, but did get the timely ones in a three-run fourth inning that busted up a tie game.

“We made it look ugly early, but we fought through it,” said Cabot coach Chris Cope. “We didn’t give up too many and the defense started playing a lot better after that. We got some big hits with runners on. Even though I got one thrown out, in scoring situations. We put enough across when we had to.”

Cabot trailed 2-1 in the third inning when Grace Neal hit a double to center field. Hannah Montgomery followed that with a base hit to left field and Cope waved Neal around third. But Conway’s Tremere Harris played the hop on the run and fired a perfect throw to home plate to beat Neal by a couple steps.

“I didn’t think they could get her,” Cope said. “It took a great play from that girl and boy, she made one.”

Cabot still managed to tie the game. Aubrey Lee and Lauren McCluskey got back-to-back singles, with Montgomery scoring on McCluskey’s hit to make the score 2-2. Rylie Hamilton singled as well to load the bases, but Anna Beth Duncan grounded into a 5-2 force at home to end the threat.

Cabot’s big inning in the fourth started with a one-out base hit by Riley Walthall. Bethany Knowles singled to left field. The runners moved to second and third on a wild pitch to Neal. She then ripped a base hit to right field to drive in both base runners for a 4-2 Cabot lead. Montgomery then smacked a double to the wall in center to score Neal and set the final margin.

Conway (6-6-1, 2-2) threatened in the top of the sixth inning. McCluskey hit Megan Solberg with one out before Bailey Beckham and Lindsey Williams hit back-to-back singles. But Beckham’s shot to shallow center field dropped right in front of Knowles. Solberg did not commit to second base until the ball landed, and Knowles throw got her for the force out. McCluskey then got another fly ball to center field to get out of the jam.

Cabot scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the second. Lee reached on an infield single and McCluskey beat out what was supposed to be a sacrifice bunt to leave everyone safe. Hamilton then hit a hard grounder to shortstop that got Lee thrown out at third. Duncan then singled to center field to score McCluskey’s courtesy runner Tristan Peeples.

Conway scored both of its runs in the top of the third thanks to a walk and three Cabot errors.

McCluskey pitched all seven innings, giving up six hits and zero earned runs on with one strikeout and two walks. Neal and Montgomery led the way offensively, each going 3 for 4 at the plate.

Cabot (12-1, 3-0) hosted Little Rock Central on Friday. Results of that game will be in Wednesday’s Leader. The Lady Panthers play at Bryant on Tuesday.