Saturday, May 14, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Rogers upsets Cabot in quarters

Leader sportswriter

BRYANT – Two innings made all the difference in Friday afternoon’s quarterfinal round of the Class 7A state softball tournament, and Rogers was the beneficiary of those two innings, as the Lady Mounties upset the top-seeded Cabot Lady Panthers 8-4.

Rogers’ freshman starting pitcher Alex McManus kept the ball away from the middle of the plate in the early goings of Friday’s game, and the game stayed scoreless through the first two innings of play. Rogers, the No. 4 West seed, scored seven runs over the next two innings to take the lead for good.

The Lady Mounties (20-9) scored the majority of their runs in the top of the third, and all four came with two outs. Faith Edwards drove in Cele Copps with a two-out standup double to left center, giving RHS a 1-0 lead, and the next at-bat, Sarah Hulsey hit a three-run home run to center field that pushed the Lady Mounties’ lead to 4-0.

Cabot (22-4), the No. 1 East seed, answered with two runs in the bottom of the third. With two outs, shortstop Heather Hill hit a two-run homer that drove in teammate Macee Abott, who reach base after being hit by a pitch at the start of the inning.

Rogers, though, scored three more runs in the top of the fourth to further its lead to 7-2. Leadoff hitter Allyn Hensley reached on an error at shortstop and Copps followed with her second bunt single of the game.

A second error at shortstop off the bat of three-hole hitter Maddie Massanelli allowed Hensley to score to make it 5-2 Lady Mounties, and Rogers’ sixth run came on an RBI single by McManus. Massanelli later advanced to third base on a passed ball, and scored on an ill-advised pickoff attempt from home plate that went to shallow left field, putting RHS up 7-2 after 3 1/2 innings.

Cabot, however, scored a run in the bottom of the fourth to make it 7-3. That run came on a two-out, solo home run by Kaitlyn Felder, and the Lady Panthers had their best opportunity to get back in it in the bottom of the fifth.

They held Rogers scoreless in the top half of the inning, and loaded the bases with one out in the bottom half, but couldn’t get the ball out of the infield, and a strikeout ended the inning with the score 7-4.

“We made some errors that we hadn’t made all year,” said Cabot coach Chris Cope, “and then we had some opportunities with the bases loaded a couple of innings and just didn’t get the job done like we needed to and like we’ve done all year.

“This wasn’t the time to do that, but hey, our girls fought every inning and I can’t fault them for that.”

Despite the effort, the Lady Panthers were unable to push another run across the plate, and Rogers added an insurance run in the top of the seventh to set the final score.

It wasn’t the ending the Lady Panthers, last year’s Class 7A runner-up, were hoping for, but the program has made significant strides over the last couple of years, and this year’s group of seniors have played a big part in building the program into what it is today.

“We’ve been conference champs for three years in a row,” Cope said. “Those six seniors, they’ve had a great career and they’re going to be missed.”

Rogers, who entered Friday’s game coming off a dominant 11-0 win over Conway on Thursday, outhit Cabot 13-5. McManus earned the win in the circle, pitching over four innings and finishing with two strikeouts while giving up just three hits.

Six different Lady Mounties had multiple hits Friday. Hill and Felder, both seniors, led Cabot with two hits each, including a home run apiece. Fellow senior Rachel Allgood had the Lady Panthers’ other hit of the day, a single to right field.