Friday, March 24, 2017

TOP STORY >> Panthers get one win at Best of West

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers started strong in the Best of the West Tournament in Memphis, beating Memphis University School 8-1 in the opening round. Later that same day, the Panthers lost 5-4 to Collierville, Tenn., and then fell 10-5 to Van Buren on Wednesday to exit the tournament.

Michael Shepherd went the distance on the mound in the win. He gave up just five hits and one earned run in his seven innings of work, striking out five and walking no one.

Cabot (8-5) jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the third inning, starting with a leadoff walk by Blake McCutchen. With one out, McCutchen on second because of a passed ball, catcher Denver Mullins hit an RBI single to center field. Mullins’ courtesy runner, Ty Cyr, also advanced to second on a passed ball, and scored on a double to the fence in center field by Dillon Thomas.

Houston King’s groundout advanced Thomas to third, and the catching woes cost MUS another run, as Thomas scored on a passed ball for a 3-0 Cabot lead.

The Owls started well also. Leadoff hitter Maurice Hampton tripled on a 1-1 pitch, and scored two batters later on a sacrifice grounder by John Bolton.

Cabot went back up by three in the top of the fourth. Brett Brockinton reached on an error at third base, and scored with two outs on a base hit by Kyler Franks. But the rally didn’t stop there.

McCutchen then tripled down the right-field line to score Franks. MUS then flubbed a grounder by Clayton Gray, allowing McCutchen to score and give Cabot a 6-1 lead.

One more run crossed the plate in the fifth. King drew a leadoff, four-pitch walk. Brockinton then struck out on a full-count pitch, but the third strike was dropped, forcing a throw to first. King was stealing on the strikeout pitch, and advanced all the way to third on the throw to first that got Brockinton.

Caleb Harpole then hit a sacrifice fly to deep left field that scored King for a 7-1 Cabot lead.

Back catching remained a problem throughout for MUS. McCutchen drew a leadoff walk in the sixth inning and moved to third on a pair of groundouts. From there, he scored on another passed ball to set the final margin.

Cabot got six base hits, with Thomas leading the way, going 2 for 3 with a double, a walk, an RBI and a run scored.

Against Collierville, all the damage was done in the first two innings. Cabot fell behind 5-0 before a rally fell short in the seventh. The Panthers out-hit the Dragons 7-4, but two errors allowed two unearned runs that turned out to be the difference in the game.

Thomas again led the way offensively. He went 3 for 4 at the plate, with a double and two RBIs.

Against the undefeated Pointers, the score was tied 2-2 going into the fifth inning. That’s when Van Buren (10-0) put up six, two-out runs to take command. After a fly out to start the inning, a walk and an error left runners at the corners. Dylan Billingsley then struck out Chase Moore, but Ethan Holmes hit a two-out double to put his team up 4-2.

Billingsley then issued a walk before Ethan Rauser singled to score Holmes’ courtesy runner Spencer. Another error, this one on McCutchen, allowed another run, and another walk loaded the bases. That set up a two-RBI double by Evan Jones that made the score 8-2.

Cabot got two back in the bottom of the sixth. Davis Wofford hit a solo home run with one out before a single, an error and a walk loaded the bases. McCutchen then hit a sacrifice fly to score Harpole, but the rally ended with King’s grounder to shortstop.

Van Buren capped its scoring in the sixth inning when, with one out, a walk-single, walk-single sequence made it 10-4. Cabot loaded the bases with one out in the top of the seventh, but could only get one run to set the final margin.