Leader Blues

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

SPORTS>>Offense goes silent as Cabot campaign concludes in loss

Leader sports editor

BATESVILLE — Andy Runyan couldn’t explain it two days later.

After erupting for 52 runs over five games in the Zone 3 tournament a week earlier, the Cabot Community Bank bats went strangely and fatally silent at the state tournament last weekend.

A top seed and a tourney favorite heading in, Cabot went quietly in three games at the Batesville North Sports Complex, and an otherwise spectacular season came to a disappointing end in a 4-3 9-inning loss to Batesville on Saturday.

“I have zero explanations,” said Runyan, head coach of Cabot’s second junior American Legion team. “I mulled it over all evening and I really don’t know. We averaged nine runs a game coming into the tournament.”

Cabot scored only eight runs in three games and, though the pitching is clearly superior at the state tournament level, Runyan wasn’t inclined to use that as an excuse.

“Not to discredit any of the pitching we saw because they all did a great job, but you look at the stuff they were throwing and it was nothing we hadn’t seen all year,” Runyan said, noting the difficulty of his team’s schedule, which included several older teams, and a tough zone. “Sometimes you hit a cold spot and baseball is one of those games.

“We had one of those funky weekends and we just picked the wrong time to go cold. We had good defense, outstanding pitching. We just couldn’t get a timely hit. When your kids are hot, they feed off each other. It works the other way, too.”

Community Bank survived after opening with a 3-2 loss to Little Rock Continental by sneaking past Bryant, 3-2, on Friday morning on Powell Bryant’s seventh-inning walk-off single.

Doubles by Matt Evans and Powell Bryant staked Community Bank (25-8-1) to a 1-0 lead in the third. Batesville tied it in the bottom half off starting pitcher Cole Nicholson, who allowed only one run and seven hits over his six innings.

The game remained knotted at one until Community Bank broke through for two runs in the ninth on Evans’ 2-run home run.

Evans, who relieved Nichol-son in the sixth, got the first out of the ninth, but a single, a double and a walk made it 3-2.

Dalton Carpenter, who pitched all nine innings for Batesville, then came through with the game-ending — and for Cabot, the season-ending — single that brought home the tying and winning runs.

Disappointed as Runyan was with his team’s showing at state, he wouldn’t allow it to get in the way of what was a special season. It was only the second year that Cabot has fielded a younger Legion team, making their accomplishments even more impressive to Runyan.

“That’s the major thing I hit on with the kids,” he said. “Only our second year, and we won our zone. Naturally, with the talent we had and the ball we played over the summer, your goal is to win a state championship.

“But that doesn’t mean nothing was accomplished.”

First and foremost, Runyan said, the season provided a great springboard for the high school season.

“With the games we won and the competition we played against, it bodes well for the future,” he said. “But the thing I was proudest of was the bond they formed over the summer. About mid-June, this became a close-knit team that learned about the team concept.

“That will pay dividends in high school.”