Leader Blues

Monday, March 19, 2007

SPORTS >>Cabot wins two straight

IN SHORT: The Panther baseball team beat Little Rock Catholic and Beebe to improve its overall record to 9-4.

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

The Cabot baseball team beat Little Rock Catholic 7-1 Tuesday for its first conference win of the season. The win was a good rebound after suffering a big loss in its conference opener last Friday.

The Panthers jumped on the Rockets early with three runs in the first inning, and starting pitcher Justin Haas never let Catholic back into the game.

“That was big for us to come back and play well after playing so poorly Friday,” Cabot coach Jay Fitch said. “We hit the ball really well and we didn’t make mistakes. They had some opportunities to score, but we made plays when we needed to.”
Catholic’s first opportunity came right away. The Rocket leadoff hitter doubled to left-center to start the game, and moved to third on a sacrifice-bunt-turned single when no one covered first base. That put runners on the corners with no outs, but Haas got out of the jam.

The senior southpaw fanned the three hole, got a pop up to first base from the cleanup hitter, and struck out the five hole to leave the Rockets without a run.

“I was real proud of Haas after that,” Fitch said. “He could have pushed the panic button, but he showed some senior leadership and did a good job of making the pitches he needed to make. He’s got a lot of composure.

“I think it was a little bit of a momentum shift too. For them to start out with two on and no outs and not get any runs, it may have deflated them some. For us it fired us up a little bit.”

That was evident in the bottom of the first when Cabot’s bats came alive. Leadoff hitter Colin Fuller started things with a double. Burks moved him to third with a sacrifice bunt and Sam Bates singled to right for an RBI. Shayne Burgan then singled and Justin Free walked to load the bases.

Logan Lucas hit into a fielder’s choice that got Bates thrown out at home, but freshman Jonathan Parker doubled to left-center to drive in two runs and give Cabot a 3-0 lead.

The Panthers added three more in the second inning to take full command of the game.

Corey Wade led off at the nine hole with a single and Fuller followed with a single for his second hit in as many at bats. Burks then doubled to drive in Wade, and Bates picked up two more RBIs with a double for his second hit.

Cabot added one more run in the third, but missed an opportunity to blow it open.

Lucas singled, Parker walked and Murphy was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs. Wade then hit into a 4-6-3 double play that scored Lucas, but took away the threat for a big inning.

“I really thought we were about to have another big inning and maybe get an early night,” Fitch said. “That’s just the way this game goes.”

The Panthers also won a non-conference matchup at Beebe Thursday, beating the Badgers 12-0 in five innings.

Sean Clarkson threw a one hitter through four innings before yielding to Josh Brown who closed out the fifth. The Panthers led just 3-0 after three innings, but scored nine in the fourth to set the final margin. Wade and Fuller led off the big fourth with back-to-back home runs. Murphy would add a third dinger in the inning several batters later.

The two wins lift Cabot’s record to 9-4 overall. The Panthers were 1-1 in league play heading into last night’s game against North Little Rock.

Cabot’s busy week continues through the weekend. The Panthers will play two games today in the Sheridan tournament, then will be back at Sheridan Monday before resuming conference play Tuesday at Little Rock Central.

When Cabot finishes with Central on Tuesday, it will have played seven games in eight days.

The Panthers will host Bryant in a conference game next Thursday before finally getting a rest over spring break.