Tuesday, July 11, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot Junior team makes Legion state

By RAY BENTON Leader sports editor

The Cabot-Centennial Bank Junior American Legion team won its first three games in the Zone 3 tournament it has been hosting since last Friday. Playing as the No. 2 seed, Cabot hammered Vilonia in the first round, and then took care of Batesville on Sunday in a tight 3-1 contest. On Tuesday, the Centennial Bank squad punched its ticket to the state tournament with a 19-5 rout of Central Arkansas Christian.

Monday’s win put Cabot in the finals, and the top two teams automatically advance to the state tournament. They await whoever emerges from the other three hopefuls that include CAC, Jacksonville and White Hall, and play the championship game at 5 p.m. today.

Batesville’s best offensive inning was the first, and it gave the home team on the scoreboard a 1-0 lead. Cabot pitcher Tanner Wilson walked the first batter before striking out the second. Cash Forrester then reached on an error at shortstop and Heath Bishop singled to center field to drive in leadoff hitter Hayden Hargrave for the early Batesville lead.

It remained 1-0 until the top of the third. After Cabot’s first six batters went down in order, Batesville flinched in the third and it cost them. Jackson Olivi reached on an error at third base to start the inning and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Blake Buffalo. Jake Moudy was hit by a pitch and leadoff hitter Graham Turner walked to load the bases with one out. Blayse Quarnstrom then hit a sacrifice grounder for a 5-4 fielder’s choice and an RBI that drove in Olivi.

Cabot then took the lead in the top of the third after cleanup hitter Mason Griffin started the inning with a single to center field. He was thrown out on a 5-4 fielder’s choiceby Logan Bell, and Wilson flew out to center field to leave one on with two outs. Olivi then hit an infield single in the gap between second base and shortstop. Buffalo then put down a surprise two-out squeeze bunt and beat the throw to first for the RBI single that gave Cabot the lead for good.

For the third inning in a row, Wilson walked Batesville’s first batter in the bottom of the third, but he responded by striking out the next three.

Batesville’s Hunter Wajcik reached second base on an E7 to start the bottom of the fourth. John Parker struck out and Luke Dunaway grounded out to first base to move Wajcik to third.

Cole Langston then walked to put runners on the corners. Batesville then tried to lure a throw to second to give Wajcik time to score, but it backfired and Wajcik was thrown out on the 2-4-2 play by catcher Austin Scritchfield and Quarnstrom at second base.

Olivi pitched the fifth and sixth innings for Cabot. He got into some trouble in the fifth when he walked Caleb Blakely with one out, and threw wild to first with a pick-off attempt, allowing the base runner to reach third with one out. But Olivi fanned Forrester and got Bishop to ground out to end the inning.

Batesville got its first two batters on base in the sixth, but Olivi came back to get a groundout to third, a strikeout and a pop up to first base to get out of that jam as well.

Cabot then added the game’s final run in the top of the seventh inning. Quarnstrom walked with one out and moved to second on a sacrifice grounder to third by Scritchfield.

Griffin then hit an RBI single to center field to set the final margin. It was his third base hit of the game, and third in a row since flying out to left in the first inning.

Turner pitched the bottom of the seventh for the Centennial Bank squad, and sat Batesville down in order. He gave up a leadoff single, but then got a 6-4-3 ground ball and a rare 9-3 throw out by Griffin to end the game.

That win moved Cabot into the matchup with CAC, and it was a huge second inning that put that game away. Cabot batted around twice and 13 runs crossed the plate to put the host team up 14-2.

Cabot got one run in the first inning when a one-out single by Quarnstrom was followed by a two-out triple by Bell.

After CAC scored two in the bottom half, Olivi started the second-inning rally with a leadoff single to center field. Buffalo then doubled for the RBI, and Martin and Moudy walked to load the bases.

A passed ball scored Buffalo before Turner popped up to the pitcher for the first out. Quarnstrom was hit to reload the bases and Griffin flew out to center field. The next 10 batters reached base before CAC could record the third out. Bell walked to drive in one run and Wilson doubled to left field for two RBIs.

Olivi got his second base hit of the inning and Buffalo reached on an E3. Martin singled and Moudy walked for the second time. Turner was hit before three more consecutive walks drove in three more runs. Wilson finally grounded out to shortstop to end the inning.

CAC scored two in the third, but Cabot added five more in the fourth as CAC’s pitching drew increasingly erratic.

Bell and Martin got the only two base hits in the inning, but two more walks and three more hit batters aided the Cabot cause.

The Mustangs scored two in the fifth, but needed five more to keep the game from ending via the mercy rule.