Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

SPORTS >> Cabot sweeps West Memphis

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers improved to 6-0 in the AAAAA-East conference by sweeping a road doubleheader at West Memphis Monday.

The Panthers won by scores of 8-4 and 7-3, and improved to 10-4 overall on the season.
“We got two big ones out of the way here,” Cabot coach Jay Fitch said. “West Memphis isn’t too bad, and it puts us 6-0. I’ve won 11 games twice, but I’ve never started 6-0, and we have a pretty good chance of making it 8-0 next week. That’ll be big if we can pull that off. Eight wins should get you in the tournament.”

Cabot got the win on the strength of excellent hitting up and down the lineup, starting with sophomore shortstop Sam Bates.
As the visitors in game one, Cabot got on the board first with two runs in the top of the second inning. Bates led off with a double to right field. Second baseman Justin Free singled for the first of his three hits in the game to drive in Bates. Free then scored on a fielder’s choice RBI by freshmen Drew Burks.

West Memphis scored a run in the bottom of the same inning, but Bates came up with two outs in the third to again make it a two-run margin. Bates hit his first home run of the year, a solo shot to the opposite field to make it 3-1.

The Panthers suffered a major scare in the bottom of the third. A comebacker caught Cabot pitcher Justin Haas in the neck. Haas initially complained about losing feeling in his arm, but after a delay of several minutes, continued his game-winning performance.

“That kid is so gutsy,” Fitch said. “Pound for pound he’s probably the toughest kid out there. At first I thought it hit him in the face, but we got out there and he said he couldn’t feel his right arm; I got a little worried about him. They gave him four or five minutes to see how he felt and everything turned out fine, but he’s a tough one.”

Haas got out of the inning without allowing a run, and the Panther offense got back on a roll in the fourth. Leadoff hitter Colin Fuller led off with a single to left field. Burks followed with an RBI single to make it 4-1.

The Panthers put together a three-run fifth that put the game away. Bates led off with a walk and Free singled. Logan Lucas was hit by a pitch and nine-hole hitter Corey Wade hit a two-RBI single to right.

The third run came across when Fuller’s grounder to second base was mishandled.

West Memphis’ Brandon Anderson hit a three-run home run off Haas in the bottom of the sixth, but that ‘s as close as the Blue Devils would get.

Free added the final run with a solo shot, the first of his career, over the fence in left-center field.
Free went 3 for 4 with two runs scored and two RBIs.

Haas went the distance, giving up five hits and striking out four Blue Devils. Fuller took the mound in game two and threw a two-hitter over six innings. Bates took the mound late and got the save.

Cabot took the lead with one run each in the first and second innings. First baseman Chris Gross got an RBI for the first run of the game.

West Memphis tied it with two runs in the top of the fourth, but Cabot answered with a run in the bottom of the same inning. The Blue Devils again tied it 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth, but the Panthers put the game away with another big sixth-inning rally.

This time Cabot plated four runs to set the final margin.
Free and Lucas started things off with back-to-back singles. Fuller grounded out but moved the runners to second and third. That set up a two-RBI double by Burks. Gross followed Burks with his own RBI double. Daryl Murphy was hit by pitch, and Kyle West singled to score Gross and set the final margin.

Burks, West, Gross and Free each had two hits in the game.

The Panthers will play at North Pulaski next Monday in a non-conference game. They will get back to league play next Tuesday against Forrest City.

Two wins in that doubleheader will make Cabot 8-0, with the meat of the league schedule remaining. The Panthers close against Jonesboro, Sylvan Hills and Searcy.

“That’s the top three the last couple years, so we’ve got our work cut out for us,” Fitch said. “Eight wins probably gets us in (the state tournament) but you want to finish strong. I think there’s a lot of parity in the league this year, so 11 wins will win it for somebody. We’re just going to play it out and see what happens. I think we’ve got a good club here.”