Friday, April 14, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Panthers blow up in eighth at NLR

Special to The Leader

A tight game ended up not so close when the Cabot Lady Panthers exploded for five runs in the first extra inning to beat North Little Rock 9-4 Tuesday at Burns Park.

Cabot moved into sole possession of second place in the 7A Central conference race with the victory. Both teams had a loss to conference leading Bryant, so with the win, Cabot moved a game ahead of the Charging Lady Wildcats at 6-1 in league play and an overall record of 16-3 overall.

North Little Rock is 4-2 in the conference and 11-4-1 overall.

The Lady Wildcats scored first, but Cabot held a 4-2 lead after five innings. North Little Rock tied the contest in the bottom of the sixth, and a scoreless seventh forced an extra inning.

“I thought both teams played hard,” said Cabot coach Chris Cope. “We left a lot of runnerson base. I thought at any given moment we could have broke out. They did too, but we took care of business in the last inning. We gave ourselves a chance defensively to put us in that last inning, and we took care of it. Lauren (McCluskey) did a good job of pitching tonight for us. She kept the hitters off balance. They had some hard hits, but then our defense stepped up and played one of the better games that they have played.”

The Lady Wildcats scored first in the bottom of the first inning. Reagan Sperling led off with a double to center field. Madi Bobbitt moved her to third with a ground out to third. Cassidy Tucker singled to score Sperling for the 1-0 lead after one inning of play.

The Lady Panthers did score twice in the third to take a 2-1 advantage. Bethany Knowles got a ball into the right field corner to reach second base. Grace Neal drove her in with a double to center. Hannah Montgomery singled to left, followed by a single to right by Lee to score Neal.

Anna Beaver singled and moved to second on a bunt by Sperling to start the bottom of the inning for NLR, but when Cabot shortstop Rylie Hamilton threw out a runner at first, first baseman Hannah Montgomery threw out the runner advancing to third to end the inning.

Cabot picked up two more runs in the fifth inning to take a 4-1 lead. McCluskey doubled to score pinch runner Tristan Peeples and moved to third on the throw home. Her courtesy runner, Layne Smith, scored on a ground ball to the right side by Kaitlyn Campbell.

The Lady Wildcats picked up a run in the bottom of the inning. Marissa Mitchell singled up the middle and scored on a triple to deep right field by Beaver for a score of 4-2 at the end of five.

North Little Rock scored again in the next inning to knot the score at 4-4. Bobbitt led off with a single to right center. After a fielder’s choice out, Katelynn McMahan singled over first base. Lily Douglass singled to center to score pinch runner Alexis Hood. Mitchell singled to score Douglass for the tie.

The Lady Wildcats got their lead off runner aboard in the bottom of the seventh, but the snag of a hot line drive and throw to first behind the runner by McCluskey ended the inning.

Since no one scored in the seventh, to start the eighth, the Lady Panthers had Duncan on second base. Leah Gerald reached on an error. Knowles hit a line drive down the right field line to score Duncan and Gerald. Neal followed with a double to score Knowles. Montgomery singled to left. The Lady Wildcats changed pitchers, moving McKenzie Roberts from first in relief of starter Katelynn McMahan. Two walks followed, one for a run, and Hamilton reached on an error to score another run, for a total of five for the frame.

The Cabot defense held in the bottom of the inning to set the final score of 9-4.

Neal scored two runs for the Lady Panthers and had three hits, two of them doubles. Knowles also scored two runs, had two doubles, two sacrifice bunts and reached on an error.

Beaver had three hits for the Lady Wildcats, and Mitchell had two hits and scored a run.