SPORTS>> Panthers see better play with two twinbill splits
By Ray Benton
Leader staff writer
The Cabot Panthers’ class AA American Legion team put together a few respectable performances over the weekend. After losing four straight games, Cabot earned doubleheader splits with Jacksonville’s AA team and Vilonia Friday and Saturday respectively.
Friday’s win was particularly pleasing for two reasons. The main reason is that it snapped a losing streak that saw the Panthers beaten badly three times.
A secondary reason was the fact that some of the Panther legion players’ high school teammates were in the opposite dugout on Hickingbotham Field.
“They were definitely aware of that,” Cabot coach Paul Fuller said. “I think that probably did give them some extra motivation.”
That motivation did little to help Cabot through the first four innings. Jacksonville pitcher Trey Smith was on fire. Smith gave up just two hits, only one of which got out of the infield, and struck out eight Cabot players over the first four innings.
The good news for Cabot was that its pitcher, Justin Haas, was throwing just about as well as Smith, and held Jacksonville scoreless through four also.
Jacksonville sent Seth Boatman to the mound in the fifth inning. Boatman had not pitched in over a month, and his rustiness showed. He walked Haas with one out, then hit Mitchell Durant. A perfect sacrifice bunt by Chad Bryant moved the runners up for Logan Lucas, who hit an infield single to score one run.
Jacksonville answered with two in the bottom of the same inning. Gwatney first baseman Brandon Clements hit a high pop-up to shallow centerfield, where no one claimed the ball and it dropped between three fielders.
Zach Thomas followed with a single to right field and Tyler Uptergrove reached safely on a perfect bunt to load the bases.
Clements then scored when Haas was called for a balk. A sacrifice by leadoff hitter Josh Mansfield scored Thomas to put Gwatney ahead 2-1.
Another infield single and a series of errors led to five Cabot unearned runs in the top of the sixth inning.
Shawn Trammel started off with an infield single and Shayne Burgan reached on an error by Uptergrove. Uptergrove’s throwing error led to Trammell being caught in a rundown between second and third, but third baseman Kyle West overthrew his teammate and sent the ball into right field, allowing Trammel to score on the play.
Kaleb Killough lined out to left field for the first out of the inning, and Justin Free followed that with an RBI single to left to score Burgan.
Boatman then issued back-to-back walks to Haas and Durant to load the bases. Boatman then struck out the next batter, but leadoff hitter Lucas singled to right field to drive in two runs. An error at shortstop off the bat of JC Weir brought in the final run of the inning for Cabot.
Jacksonville scored one in the bottom of the sixth. Randy Peeples doubled to lead off the inning and scored two batters later on an error at second base to set the final margin.
Jacksonville pulled out game two with a run in the bottom of the seventh inning to win 3-2, but Fuller was still pleased with how his team played.
“That second one was just a hard-luck deal,” Fuller said. “I thought we played pretty well and really had ‘em where we wanted ‘em. But we made some mental errors on the base paths and that just killed us. We’re starting to come together a little bit though. It helps that we’re finally playing other AA teams. We’d been playing teams that just out-manned us. We’re getting better and gaining some confidence.”
Trammell went 3 for 4 in the game one win, including a double in the seventh inning.
Lucas went 2 for 4 and was the only other player with multiple hits in the game.
Chris Goss went 2 for 3 to lead Cabot in its 5-2 victory over Vilonia Saturday. Killough got the win on the mound, giving up just two hits and zero earned runs.
Cabot picked up five hits in the win.
The Panthers host Stuttgart at Brian Conrad Complex Thursday. Game one of the scheduled doubleheader begins at 6 p.m.