SPORTS>>Cabot brings the lumber
Leader sports editor
A season that had begun in fits and starts received a big injection of confidence Sunday when the Cabot Community Bank senior American Legion team captured the Sheridan Wood Bat Tournament.
Cabot, which barely survived its final pool play game to win its division, held off Sylvan Hills, 1-0, in the semis, before beating Bryant’s junior team, 4-2, in the title game.
Community Bank went 4-1 over the weekend to improve its record to 8-7 overall.
“Our kids do realize they have the talent to win,” said Community Bank coach Jay Darr. “This high school season, we struggled and we’ve struggled early (in Legion). But I’ve been trying to convey to them they’ve got the talent to put it all together.
“We beat some great teams in this tournament.”
Offense is typically stymied in the annual tournament in which only wood bats are used, putting a premium on pitching and defense. Cabot received both on Sunday and throughout the weekend. Colin Fuller tossed a 3-hitter and struck out 14 in Community Bank’s 3-0 win over Russellville on Saturday, andJosh Brown, normally a relief pitcher, was masterful in shutting out Sylvan Hills in the semis.
In the championship game, Andrew Reynolds and C.J. Jacoby combined to limit Bryant to just six hits.
“In a wood bat tournament, you have to make the routine plays and pitching is going to dominate,” Darr said. “I’ve got six or seven great pitchers and four or five who would be starters in most teams in the state in high school.”
But it was a heads up play by catcher Ben Wainright and centerfielder Jeremy Wilson that helped preserve the win against Bryant. Trailing 3-2 in the sixth inning, Bryant placed its first two batters on base with a walk and a single.
When Austin Quick wandered too far off second after a pitch to Brennan Bullock, Wainright ran toward the mound, freezing Quick between second and third. Wainright’s throw to second sailed into center field as Quick took off for third base.
But Wilson was backing up the play, caught Wainright’s errant throw and delivered a perfect strike to third baseman Ty Steele, who put the tag on Quick, and Bryant failed to score in the inning.
“We’ve been working on things like that,” Darr said. “We haven’t been swinging the bats that well, so we’ve had to try to keep runs from scoring. Ben has been making plays and picking people off. He’s got a great arm and a quick release.
“And Wilson was right there to back up the play. It’s a team ballgame. Wilson did his part.”
Cabot then got an insurance run in the seventh on Steele’s leadoff single, a sacrifice by Tyler Erickson and an error on the Bryant shortstop.
Austin Benning led off the Bryant seventh with a single but was doubled off when second baseman Sam Bates turned Sergio Arias’ soft liner into a double play at first. Shayne Burgan finished things off by making a spectacular game-ending catch in right field after running a long way to reach out and haul in Brady Butler’s fly ball down the line.
Burgan had got things started for Community Bank in the first when he singled. Powell Bryant forced Burgan at second, then scored on Bates’ line single to center to make it 1-0.
After Erickson and Wilson singled with one out in the second, Burgan bounced a 2-1 pitch through the box for a 2-run single to make it 3-0.
Reynolds pitched around a leadoff walk in the first and a two-on, nobody-out jam in the second. He struck out the side in the third, pitching around an error.
But Bryant busted through in the fourth. A walk, two singles and another walk forced in a run, ending Reynold’s day. Jacoby came in to record a strikeout, but Benning beat out an infield hit to make it 3-2.
Reynolds got the win, allowing three hits over 3 1/3 innings, striking out seven. He walked four. Jacoby saved it with 3 2/3 scoreless innings. Jacoby allowed three hits and a walk and struck out three.
Community Bank’s 7-hit attack was led by Burgan’s two hits and two RBI. Drew Burks was unavailable for Cabot on Sunday as he was attending the Xtra Innings Classic in Jonesboro.
COMMUNITY BANK 1, SYLVAN HILLS BRUINS 0
Over a 4-batter span in the sixth and seventh innings on Sunday afternoon, Blain Sims lost a perfect game, a no-hitter, a shutout and the game.
“He threw one heck of a ball- game,” said Sylvan Hills coach Mike Bromley. “He’s had several outstanding outings like that.
Almost every time he shows up, he has a good outing.”
Community Bank’s Josh Brown matched the Sylvan Hills hurler nearly pitch for pitch and eventually got all the run support he would need when Cabot broke through in the seventh inning of the semifinal battle.
Sims retired the first 17 batters he faced before Jeremy Wilson dropped a 1-1 pitch in front of a diving Ryan Dillon in left for Community Bank’s first base runner of the game.
Catcher Cody Cormier threw out Wilson trying to steal, but Sims issued a leadoff walk to Matt Evans to start Community Bank’s seventh-inning rally. One out later, Powell Bryant executed a perfect hit-and-run when he slapped a single through the hole at second. Evans easily reached third on the play, then alertly raced home when right fielder Ross Bogart held on to the ball too long.
That run held up as Brown finished off his gem by pitching around a one-out single to Sims in the bottom of the seventh. After Sims singled, third baseman Ty Steele made a nifty short-hop backhand scoop of Cormier’s sharp grounder and got a force out at second. Brown closed it out with a strikeout, his third of the game.
“This is wooden bat and (a pitcher) can sometimes sit there and get away with a lot of things when you’re using a wooden bat,” Bromley said.
Brown allowed only five hits and four walks. Sims surrendered two hits and a walk, while striking out six. He was unhittable through the first 5 2/3 innings, striking out the side in the third, and the final two of the fifth.
The Bruins put two base runners on three innings in a row. Clint Thornton singled to begin the fourth, but Wainright picked him off and Thornton was out after a lengthy rundown between first and second.
Wainright also came up big in the sixth, throwing out the fleet Hunter Miller trying to steal second when his throw was right on the bag for Bates to apply the tag.
Miller had two of the Bruins’ five hits to lead Sylvan Hills.