Tuesday, May 09, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers set new record with last win

Special to The Leader

The Cabot Panther baseball team reached 22 wins for the first time in school history Friday night with a 7-4 victory over the North Little Rock Charging Wildcats in the last home game of the season.

The Panthers have 23 wins against only seven losses overall after adding a 6-4, nonconference win over Bentonville West on Monday. They are conference champions with a 13-1 record, and will be a number one seed in the 7A state tournament which begins Thursday in Bentonville.

Cabot will have a bye and not play until Friday. North Little Rock is 19-8 overall and ended the conference season with a record of 10-4.

“It was a good game, well pitched on our end,” said Cabot coach Ronnie Goodwin. “Their guy pitched well as well, just had two hiccups there. But, they’re really good, and we’re pretty good. It’s just on to the playoffs at this point.”

On his seniors, Goodwin had this to say.

“They’ve just made history. They now have the most wins in Cabot baseball history in a single season. This is the first group that I had. When I got here, they were ninth graders. For them to accomplish this, with all the work that we’ve made them do, they’re very deserving, and I couldn’t be more proud of them. They’ve earned this. They’ve definitely put in the time and the energy.”

North Little Rock was first to score, getting one run in the top of the first inning on three consecutive base hits with two outs. Nick Butler got the first into short center field, followed by a Ryan Maloch hit into the gap in right center.

Reed Shepherd then singled to left center to score Butler for the 1-0 lead. A fly ball to left ended the inning with the two runners stranded.

It was the bottom of the third when the Panthers made their first move. Kyler Franks led off with a base on balls, then Blake McCutchen lined the ball back up the middle for a hit.

Clayton Gray grounded out to the first baseman, but moved the runners to second and third. Catcher Denver Mullins drove the ball to left field to score both, and moved to second when the left fielder fumbled the ball.

Caleb Harpole entered the game as a courtesy runner, moved to third on an error, and scored on a base hit by Houston King to give the Panthers a 3-1 lead after three innings.

After a scoreless fourth frame, Cabot struck again in the home half of the fifth. Mullins started the rally with another base hit to left, and King went the other way with a hit to right center. Bobby Duncan hit a ground ball to the shortstop, everyone was safe, and the bases were loaded.

Evan Hooper brought in one with a hit to right field, Eric Larsen brought in two more with a hit to left, and Hooper followed them in to score the fourth run of the inning. The Wildcats turned a double play to end the frame, but the lead was now 7-1.

Michael Shepherd took over the pitching duties for Cabot in the top of the sixth, relieving starter Logan Gilbertson who allowed only the one run on three hits while striking out five batters.

NLR had consecutive hits in the sixth, but two strikeouts and a runner caught stealing by Mullins ended the threat in that frame.

The Panthers went in order in the bottom of the inning, and the Wildcats came to bat in the seventh. Dezmond Cordova reached on an error to start things off. Zac Freeman singled to right and went to second on the throw to third.

After a fly ball to center for the second out, Butler singled to left, scoring both runners, and advanced to second on the throw home. Maloch scored him with a base hit, but a foul fly ball was caught by Duncan to end the game and set the final score of 7-4.

Mullins had three hits for Cabot and scored two runs. McCutchen, King, and Hooper all had two hits, and each scored a run.

Butler had two hits and scored twice for the Wildcats.