Leader Blues

Friday, March 21, 2008

SPORTS >>Bryant pounds Panthers

Leader sports editor

BRYANT — If the Cabot Panthers are looking for good news, it may be that the schedule is about to get a whole lot easier.

But the bad news of two consecutive run-rule losses to open 7A- Conference play probably overrides the fact that the two toughest teams in the league are behind the Panthers.

Cabot followed a 10-0 loss at North Little Rock on March 13 with an 11-1 loss in five innings at Bryant on Thursday. The Panthers fell to 0-2 in league play, 7-3 overall.

“This was bad, but we didn’t just totally give it to them,” said Cabot head coach Jay Fitch, searching for another silver lining after his Panthers played error-free in the field against Bryant. They committed five errors in the NLR loss. “I’ve had some rear-end whippings, before — and they whipped us — but we didn’t give it away.”

Though the Panthers didn’t commit an error in the field on Thursday, they were guilty of some base-running miscues and were otherwise victimized by the arm of Bryant catcher Kaleb Jobe, who threw out two would-be stealers. The Panthers also lost a pinch runner to a pickoff to start the game.

“We thought we could run on that kid a little better,” Fitch said of Jobe. “But we had a couple of miscues and you can’t do that against the Bryants, the Conways and the North Little Rocks. You’ve got to play a great game.”

Cabot was also victimized by a pair of two-run homers by David Guarno. The first of those opened up a 5-0 Bryant lead in the third. The second came two innings later and extended the Hornet lead to 7-1.

The Panthers couldn’t score in the first, despite placing three on base and opening the game with singles by Powell Bryant and Matt Evans. After a pickoff at first base, the Panthers got runners to second and third on a walk and a wild pitch.

But Matthew Turner’s bid to stake Cabotto an early lead was snuffed out when he lined out hard to right.

“We get runners at second and third and we hit a ball right to their right fielder,” Fitch said. “If that ball gets down, that may change the complexion of the game.”

In a nearly identical situation in the bottom of the inning, Bryant did get the ball to fall in. Jordan Knight’s soft two-out single down the right field line scored two to give Bryant an early 3-0 lead.

Ben Wainright got Cabot off to a promising start in the second with his single to left, but he was gunned down by Jobe at second base. Cabot scored its only run on Sam Bates’ rocket double to the fence in straightaway center and Wainright’s RBI-single in the fourth.

Bryant ended the game by adding four more runs after Guarno’s homer in the fifth.

Evans took the loss for Cabot after allowing eight hits and six earned runs over four innings. He walked four and struck out four.

“My little sophomore I threw is a dandy,” Fitch said of Evans. “But he had a little trouble getting his off-speed over, and he fell behind in the count a lot. You just can’t fall behind.”

Cabot had some success against Bryant hurler Tyler Sawyer, collecting seven hits, including two apiece by Evans and Wainright.

“Our confidence is a little shaken right now,” said Fitch, whose Panthers played yesterday in the second round of the Pine Bluff Tournament. (The Bryant game counted as a first-round tournament game as well as a 7A-Conference game). “We started off with the top two teams in the conference. You go into it knowing that, and you should remember that. But you still want to play good against the best, and we haven’t played good two times.

“I told the kids, the only thing I know to do is go back to work. They’re hard workers and things will start going our way, hopefully.”

Cabot returns to conference action after spring break when it host Pine Bluff.

“Our conference takes the top six teams, so we have to come back and get things going after the break,” Fitch said. “Those are going to be games we’ve got to win.”