Leader Blues

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

SPORTS>> Cabot comes up game short

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

After scoring 37 runs and belting 45 hits over the first three games of the American Legion senior Zone 3 Tournament last weekend, Cabot Community Bank’s bats finally fell silent.

Sylvan Hills’ Ross Bogard held Cabot to five hits over seven innings and Community Bank’s season came to an end with an 11-
1 loss on Sunday afternoon at Burns Park.

“Give Bogard a lot of credit,” said Cabot head coach Jay Darr. “He threw a lot of pitches and he battled and pitched very well.”

Cabot opened with a cruise past Maumelle on Thursday, but lost a 14-7 slugfest to North Little Rock on Friday night. They bounced back with a 13-11 win over Gwatney Chevrolet on Saturday, but had little left against the Bruins on Sunday.

Sylvan Hills jumped on Community Bank starter Josh Brown for three runs on four hits in the first inning. Cabot answered with its only run of the contest in the second when Jeremy Wilson beat out a bunt, went to second on a wild throw on the play and scored on Powell Bryant’s looping RBI single into shallow right. Cabot had just five more base runners over the final five innings and two of those were cut down on double plays.

Five errors proved too much for Community Bank to overcome. Only four of Sylvan Hills’ runs were earned. Two errors with two outs in the second, followed by singles by Bogard and Hunter Miller pushed the lead to 5-1.

Reliever Sam Bates pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the third and set down the Bruins in order in the fourth. But he ran into trouble in the sixth when a walk, a hit batsman and an error, along with a Matt Rugger single and a D.J. Baxendale double pushed three more runs across.

Meanwhile, Bogard was cruising. He allowed a walk with one out in the third, but a backwards double play turned by first baseman Baxendale ended the inning. Baxendale fielded Bates’ grounder, stepped on first, then threw to shortstop Justin Treece, who put the tag on Burks to complete the twin killing.

Matt Turner singled with one out in the fourth, but third baseman T.C. Squires turned Ty Steele’s slow grounder into a 5-4-3 double play.

Sylvan Hills made it 10-1 with two more unearned runs in the sixth. Miller reached on an error and Clint Thornton was hit with a pitch. Rugger singled to load the bases. Reliever Matt Evans got Nathan Eller to hit into a run-scoring double play, and a passed ball allowed Thornton to come across.

The Bruins ended it in the seventh on Baxendale’s double, a passed ball and Miller’s sacrifice fly.

“In terms of American Legion play, it’s the third year in a row we’ve improved our record,” said Darr, whose club finished 15-13. “And then if you look at the junior squad, they set a win mark for their program, so we’re heading in the right direction. I think baseball is becoming a priority at a younger age in Cabot and it’s trickling down to the Legion programs.

“As far as high school, I know (Panther head coach Jay Fitch) believes he has a state contender next year. If they play up to their potential, they can be great.”

The senior Community Bank hitters appeared to finally reach their potential at the plate throughout much of the tournament, something Darr said he had been waiting for all season.

“I wasn’t surprised by how well we hit it at the tournament,” he said. “I think I was surprised we weren’t hitting it like that all year. It seemed like about three-fourths of the season we weren’t playing up to our talent level. We showed who we were, hitting-wise, in this tournament. I attribute that to guys saying, ‘Hey, this is it, this is our last chance.’”

On Saturday, Community Bank stayed alive after allowing Gwatney to rally from a 6-run deficit to tie it in the fifth. Burks’ 2-run homer in the bottom of the fifth put Community Bank on top for good and they went on to post a 13-11 victory.

Friday night’s contest against high-powered host North Little Rock began as a slugfest and continued that way – for the Colts, anyway. Three Community Bank home runs and a 4-hit performance by Ben Wainright was not enough against the Colts’ 20-hit outburst.

The Colts got to Cabot ace Colin Fuller for three runs in the first, but a 3-run homer by Powell Bryant and a solo shot by Matt Evans in the second staked Cabot to a 4-3 lead.

Fuller settled down to retire seven in a row, including five in a row by strikeout before a 2-out rally touched by controversy allowed the Colts to tie it in the third.

After Travis Bearden singled and Hunter Benton walked, Kyle Thompson hit a short foul pop a few feet down the first base line.

Thompson appeared to stop running and Wainright ran into him as he attempted to make the catch for what would have been the third out of the inning.

Darr protested that it was interference and, still upset after Thompson singled in the tying run, was ejected.

“I felt like it should have been interference because of the contact,” Darr said. “From my conversation with (zone commissioner Gary Davis), if there’s contact, it’s interference. But one play doesn’t win or lose a ballgame. But I felt bad about not being there for the rest of the game.”

The frustration continued for Community Bank when they placed two runners on in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings and failed to score.

Fuller once again settled down to retire five straight after Thompson’s game-tying single in the third, but North Little Rock erupted for five runs on seven hits in the fifth — four of the runs scoring after two were out. The Colts belted three doubles and a triple in the inning.

Community Bank’s offense reawakened in the seventh with four consecutive hits — including a single by Shayne Burgan, a double by Burks and a towering, opposite-field 3-run home run by Bates to cut the lead to 10-7. Wainright greeted reliever Hunter Benton with his fourth hit of the game, but Benton retired the next two and Cabot managed just two hits over the final two innings.

North Little Rock took the drama out of it with three runs in the eighth and another in the ninth.