Tuesday, July 25, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot among last four

Leader sports editor

Pitching depth is always key in a baseball tournament, and Cabot was sitting pretty when it started its Senior American Legion semifinal game against Bryant on Sunday, but luck is another factor. Bad luck bit the Centennial Bank squad and partially contributed to an 8-5 loss on Monday that bumped Cabot to the losers’ bracket.

A severe thunderstorm popped up in east Conway in the third inning on Sunday, flooding the field, downing large trees, and also burning Cabot ace Brett Brockinton for the re-start on Monday.

Cabot’s plan going into the tournament was working to perfection. Great starts from Caleb Wilson and Michael Shepherd during the first two rounds allowed coach Casey Vaughan to save Brockinton for the matchup with Bryant, but new pitch count rules forced Brockinton into a day of rest because he threw more than 30 pitches on Sunday.

Bryant ace Alex Shurtleff was also burned for the restart, but the Black Sox had not yet used No. 2 pitcher Seth Tucker, and has several more pitchers on staff than Cabot.

With its top three pitchers already burned for Monday, Cabot went to Koletan Eastham, who did a remarkable job until tiring in the eighth inning.

“I couldn’t be more proud of Koletan,” said Vaughan. “It wasn’t the plan for him to go against one of the best teams in the state, and that’s the most pitches he’s thrown (86) in one appearance all year. I don’t even think it’s close.”

Cabot trailed 3-1 and had just come to bat in the bottom of the third when the storm hit. After the restart, the Centennial Bank squad had Tucker’s number, and pounded its way to a 5-3 lead after the fifth inning. But something suddenly changed at that point.

Logan Edmondson singled, Rail Gilliam doubled and Michael Crumbly singled to score Edmondson to start the fifth and put Cabot up 5-3.

With runners on the corners and no outs, Bryant coach Darren Hurt visited the mound, and Cabot did not get another base hit the rest of the game.

Tucker struck out the next three batters in a row to get out of the jam. He then got a groundout to start the bottom of the sixth and hit Brian Tillery with a pitch before being taken out of the game. From that point, Bryant used four more pitchers over the final three innings to keep Cabot off balance in the box.

Bryant then scored five runs in the top of the eighth inning, all with two outs, off a tired Eastham arm. The Black Sox did it on three base hits and four walks, one intentional.

While Vaughan was complimentary for Eastham’s effort and forgiving of his fatigue, he wasn’t so forgiving towards his team’s offensive effort after the fifth.

“We (Vaughan and assistant coach Gavin Tillery) talked about that fifth inning being the turning point,” Vaughan said. “If we could’ve pushed a couple more across when we had that opportunity it might’ve changed a lot about how it played out. We got complacent at the plate is all that happened. We had some success early and weren’t mature enough to handle it. Good teams are going to make you pay for that, and that’s what happened.”

Cabot’s first run came in the first inning after leadoff hitter Blake McCutchen doubled down the left-field line. After two strikeouts, Shurtleff walked Dillon Thomas and Edmondson singled to second base to score McCutchen and put Cabot up 1-0.

Brockinton dominated Bryant for two innings, retiring the first six batters in order with four strikeouts, but the bottom of the Bryant lineup had his number, starting with seven hitter Aaron Orender’s leadoff double to left field. Scott Schmidt singled and nine hitter Coby Greiner grounded out to first base, but scored Orender to tie the game.

Leadoff hitter Logan Allen then drilled a line drive over Edmondson’s head in left field for an RBI double, and he scored on a double by Tucker to right field to put Bryant up 3-1.

After the restart on Monday, Cabot tied the game quickly in the bottom of the third. Brian Tillery was hit and Thomas walked to put two on with one out. Edmondson singled to load the bases and Gilliam walked to drive in a run. Crumbly grounded out to second base to score Thomas and Schluter grounded out to shortstop to end the inning.


Cabot got to the semifinals with a 12-inning, 7-5 win over Paragould, the team with the most wins in the state coming into the tournament. Paragould entered the game with a record of 34-3, and one of those losses was to Cabot. The Centennial Bank squad became the first team to beat Paragould twice after scoring two runs in the 12th inning. The winning rally started with a leadoff walk by Schluter before Edmondson sacrificed him to second base.

Rail Gilliam also walked and Michael Crumbly hit an RBI single to give Cabot (13-11) the lead. Jack Broyles walked to load the bases and Blake McCutchen hit an RBI single that set the final margin.

Schluter, who replaced Shepherd with two outs in the eighth inning, got into a little trouble in the bottom of the 12th after an error and a single started the inning. He struck out Matthew Leonard and got Andrew Cooper to fly out to left field. Zachary Kibler-Webb then walked to load the bases with two outs and the leadoff hitter coming up, but Schluter go Preston Hart to ground out to third base for the win.

Paragould had built a 5-0 lead with one run in the third, three in the fourth and another in the fifth, but Cabot answered with a five-run sixth inning. That rally started with back-to-back singles by McCutchen and Harpole. After an infield pop up by Thomas, Tillery singled to right-center for an RBI.

Schluter then popped up to first base, but Harpole and Tillery scored on a passed ball and a wild pitch. Edmondson then walked and scored on a hit by Gilliam, who himself then scored on a hit by Crumbly.