Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

SPORTS>>Panthers survive 13-inning marathon

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

Somewhere inside this state known as the Land of Opportunity is a little place called Wade Field that could just as easily be known as the land of missed oppotunity. At least that was the case last Friday night when the Cabot Panthers and North Little Rock Charging Wildcats refused to score through seven innings of play. It wasn’t, however, in the seven innings of regulation that no one could score, it was only the last two innings of regulation, along with the first five extra innings that saw Cabot and NLR deadlocked at three runs apiece. Finally, after over four hours of baseball, the Panthers pushed across a run in the bottom of the 13th inning to take a 4-3 victory.

“Winning that one was big,” Cabot coach Jay Fitch said. “When we blew that one big chance I was worried because things like that can be a big momentum shift. We did a good job of staying poised and we got out of a big jam ourselves.”
The Panthers put an end to the four-hour ordeal in the bottom of the 13th when a Shayne Burgan single scored Colin Fuller. Fuller reached on a walk with one out and advanced to third base on a single by Drew Burks. North Little Rock intentionally walked Sam Bates to set up a double play at any base before Burgan’s hit ended the game.

Both teams had plenty of opportunities to win the game before that.

North Little Rock put a runner on third with no outs in the ninth and couldn’t score, thanks greatly to an outstanding catch and throw by Logan Lucas. NLR’s Wes Coleman led off the inning by reaching on an error and stealing two bases. The next batter popped up to shortstop for one out. Hunter Benton then hit a high fly ball, moderately deep to left field. Lucas made the catch and threw a perfect strike on the fly to home plate, forcing Coleman to stop halfway home and retreat to third base. The next batter grounded out to third to end the threat.

The Panthers loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the 12th only to come away empty. Bates hit a leadoff triple to right-center field, forcing NLR to intentionally Burgan and Justin Haas to load the bases. Justin Free then popped up in the infield, Lucas missed two chances at a bunt before striking out, and Trey Rosell grounded into a 4-6 fielder’s choice to end the inning.

The Wildcats got on the board first with two runs in the top of the opening inning, and it stayed 2-0 until the bottom of the fourth. Burks and Burgan started things with back-to-back walks. Powell Bryant then doubled to drive in the two runners.
North Little Rock reclaimed the lead in the top of the fifth with a double by Clark Sims and an RBI single by Daniel Short. Cabot then tield it in the bottom of the sixth with an unearned run. Burgan reached on an error at third base, stole second and scored on a single by Free.

Justin Haas got the win after four innings of relief, but starting pitcher Colin Fuller threw an outstanding game. Fuller went eight innings and threw 126 pitches, while only giving up three hits and two earned runs.

Haas gave up two hits in four innings to get the win.

The win lifted the Panthers to 2-1 in league play, a game behind league-leading Conway. North Little Rock fell to 2-2.
The Panthers continued play through the weekend and Monday, winning two of three games in the Sheridan tournament. Cabot hammered the Warren Lumberjacks 21-7 in the early game Saturday. Later the same day, the Panthers lost 8-5 to Malvern, who was playing its first game of the day. On Monday, Cabot beat the hosting Yellowjackets 9-6. Sheridan then beat Malvern later that day. Malvern plays the last game of the tournament today. No team finished the even unbeaten, so the tournament champion will be decided after the outcome of the last game.

The Panthers, now 12-5 overall, played at Little Rock Central last night after Leader deadlines. Look for details of that game, along with a wrap up of Thursday’s matchup against Bryant in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.