Leader Blues

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

SPORTS>>First-inning run enough to get past LR Catholic

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

One run in the top of the first inning was all the Cabot Panthers needed to win a bizarre but crucial 7A-Central Conference game over Little Rock Catholic Saturday. The Panthers beat the Rockets 1-0 at Porter Field in Little Rock in wet and windy conditions to remain in sole possession of second place behind Conway in the league standings.

The game was played a day late due to the nasty weather that blew through the area Friday. As an added distraction, Cabot won the game without the help of head coach Jay Fitch, who was home with his wife and newborn son.

Cabot assistant coach Andy Runyan was pleased to get out of the terrible atmosphere with a win.

“The conditions were certainly not conducive for offense,” Runyan said. “It was wet, windy and blowing in at about 30 miles per hour. Even with all that I thought we took some really good swings. We just didn’t find the gaps. I was actually pleased with the way we hit the ball.”

Cabot took the lead and set the final margin with two outs in the top of the first. Sophomore first baseman Drew Burks got things rolling with a two-out single to right field. Catholic assisted the run on the next at bat. Sam Bates popped up to third base, but it was misplayed. Burks was hustling on the play and made it all the way to third, leaving runners on the corners for freshmen Jonathan Parker. Parker singled to right field to score Burks from third and drive in the winning run.

Cabot senior pitcher Colin Fuller turned in a masterful performance. He went the distance and threw a one-hit shutout with seven strikeouts.

“Colin pitched at outstanding game,” Runyan said. “It’s really rare to see a shutout at all anymore, and to see a game finish 1-0 is really rare. He did a great job and we played good defense.”

Catholic’s most serious threat to score came in the sixth inning when it put runners on the corners with one out. The threat was short-lived. Fuller served up a looping curve ball to the Rockets’ five-hole hitter, who grounded to third base where Daryl Murphy scooped it up and set in motion a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.

Catholic got the tying run on second base with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, but Fuller fanned the leadoff hitter to preserver the lead and the win.

The victory lifted Cabot to 17-7 overall and 6-3 in conference play. All other league games were rained out Friday and haven’t yet been made up. Conway leads the league with a perfect 8-0 mark. Little Rock Central is third and just a half-game behind Cabot at 5-3. Bryant is fourth with a 4-4 mark while North Little Rock is 3-5 and Catholic are 3-5. Pine Bluff is in seventh place at 2-6 while Russellville is still searching for its first league win.

The Panthers played North Little Rock last night after Leader deadlines at Burns Park. They will face Central at home on Thursday.

“Obviously because of the way the standings are right now, those are two huge games for us,” Runyan said.