Tuesday, May 05, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Home runs help Cabot beat Rockets

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot baseball team dropped its first 7A-East Conference game of the season Friday in Little Rock with a 2-1 loss to Central, but on Monday, the Panthers got a quality nonconference win in Little Rock with a 6-4 victory over Catholic High.

“That’s a great nonconference win,” said Cabot coach Ronnie Goodwin after Monday’s win. “That’s a quality opponent, and that was a state tournament type of atmosphere. It was a little bit of an emotional game on both sides.

“I kind of just told the team – first thing I said when I went out to the huddle was, ‘I honestly don’t know how you won the game.’ I mean, four or five double plays in seven innings that we either hit into or ran ourselves into with some bad base running.

“We made two errors on the day, but what saved us was our pitching. We didn’t walk guys. We made them earn everything. It was a great, quality win. When you don’t play your best and you still beat a quality team, you’re doing something right.”

Cabot (14-8) scored two runs in the first inning on a two-run home run off the bat of Tristan Bulice, but Catholic (19-7) answered with three runs in the bottom half of the inning to lead 3-2 after one.

Starting pitcher Evan Hooper scored Cabot’s third run in the top of the second. He hit a double off the left-field fence and scored the next at-bat on a tough error at shortstop off the bat of Jonathan Latture.

The Rockets, though, answered with a run in the bottom of the second. That came as the result of a Will Dickinson solo home run, which gave Catholic a 4-3 lead.

Hooper pitched a scoreless inning in the third before being relieved by Logan Gilbertson in the fourth. Gilbertson gave up just two hits and no runs in his two innings of work, and Brett Brockinton pitched the last two innings.

Cabot, though, didn’t score again until the sixth. The Panthers looked as if they were going to have yet another scoreless inning, but designated hitter Easton Seidl reached on a two-out single to right field before Hooper blasted his third hit of the game over the fence in left center, putting the Panthers up 5-4.

Brockinton kept the Rockets off the board in the bottom of the sixth and Cabot scored an insurance run in the top of the seventh to set the final score.

With two outs in the top of the seventh, catcher Denver Mullins walked. Jake Slunder came in to run for Mullins, and scored the next at-bat on a Bulice double off the high wall in center field, which gave Cabot the 6-4 lead.

Catholic leadoff hitter Cameron Tissue led off the bottom of the seventh with a hard-hit single to left field. Zach Sokora tried to advance Tissue to second with a bunt, but the ball was popped up in front of home plate where Mullins made the routine catch.

Three-hole hitter William Hancock then came to the plate, representing the tying run, but Hancock hit into a 4-6-3 double play to end the game.

Brockinton officially earned the win for Cabot. He gave up just the one hit to Tissue in the bottom of the seventh. Gilbertson had two strikeouts in his time on the hill. Hooper struck out two as well. He gave up four hits, but only two of the four runs scored on him were earned.

Hooper may not have gotten the win on the mound, but he along with Bulice led Cabot at the plate. They each went 3 for 3, and both were a triple shy of the cycle. Bulice had three RBIs and a run scored and Hooper had two RBIs and two runs scored.

Dylan Bowers also had multiple hits for Cabot, going 2 for 4 with two singles. The Panthers outhit the Rockets 11-7.

Against Central on Friday, each team totaled seven hits, but Cabot had one error while the Tigers had zero. The Tigers scored their two runs in the third inning, and the Panthers scored their run in the top of the fourth.

Mullins and Bowers led the offense in that game. They each had two hits.

Cabot’s loss to Central on Friday puts the two teams in a tie for the top spot in the 7A-East standings, with 3-1 records. The Panthers, though, hold the tiebreaker over the Tigers, since they beat Central by a greater margin in their first meeting of the season earlier last week.

The Panthers control their own destiny as far as getting a No. 1 seed in the 7A state tournament, and even though they lost their first 7A-East game on Friday, they did get a quality win on Monday over Catholic, and Goodwin believes his team is starting to play its best ball at the right time.

“We always preach in our program, be playing your best at the end of April and May, and I feel like that’s kind of happening now.”

Cabot resumed 7A-East play last night at home against West Memphis after deadlines, and they’ll go to West Memphis this Friday for the final 7A-East game of the season. This Friday’s game at West Memphis is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.