Leader Blues

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

SPORTS >> Bryant has happy return

Leader sports editor

Not that Jay Fitch ever forgot, but Powell Bryant provided a stark reminder of how much he’s been missed over the early part of the Cabot baseball season.

Bryant, who has been recovering from a back injury, finally made his way back into the Panther lineup on Monday night when Cabot hosted Little Rock Hall at Conrade-Wade Field.

His return couldn’t have been more productive as the junior outfielder reached base in all four of his at-bats and scored all four times in Cabot’s 9-2 win over the Warriors.

“We’ve really been missing him,” said Fitch, Cabot’s head coach. “He hit almost .400 as a sophomore. We miss his speed and his arm in the outfield. We had some guys like Brandon Surdam and Matt Williams step in and do a good job holding things down for us, but Powell is an exceptional talent and an all-state caliber player.”

Bryant solidifies the first half of a potent Cabot lineup, where he’ll bat in the No. 2 hole behind brother and leadoff hitter Joe Bryant. With Drew Burks, Ben Wainwright and Matthew Turner rounding out the top five in the order, Fitch’s team appears to be coming together just in time for the heart of the 7A Central race.

“The key for Drew is Ben and Matthew,” Fitch said. “If those two guys don’t protect him, it’s a no-brainer. You walk Drew.

They’ve done well. Ben is hitting around .400. And the second half of the lineup has been pretty solid all year, too.

“Then you’ve got all that speed with Joe with 15 stolen bases and now Powell, too.”

Burks and Wainwright combined to go 7 of 7 against Hall. Burks was 4 of 4 with two doubles and three RBI, while Wainwright had a pair of doubles and two RBI. Burks’s average is pushing .600.

Cole Nicholson pitched three innings of three-hit baseball in another solid outing. Nicholson allowed no earned runs and struck out six, giving Fitch yet another option in his starting rotation. It appeared Andrew Reynolds had nailed down the secondslot behind Tyler Erickson after his big outing in relief in a comeback win over Bryant on March 19.

“That was a huge performance by Andrew,” Fitch said. “But the next day Cole threw a magnificent game against a good White Hall team. Probably Andrew has the edge (for the No. 2 starter) because he’s a junior.”

Cabot scored three runs in the first inning against the hapless Warriors, taking advantage of an error, a Powell Bryant single, a Burks double and Wainwright’s sacrifice fly to lead 3-0.

A two-out infield single by Powell Bryant and Burks’ RBI double made it 4-0 after two. Hall took advantage of a pair of errors by Nicholson to score a run in the third, but Wainwright’s double and Turner’s sacrifice fly got that run back. RBI singles by
Burks and Wainwright in the fourth extended the lead to 7-1.

Hall got a run in the sixth against reliever Reynolds, but Joe Bryant scored on the back end of a double steal and Powell Bryant scored his fourth run of the game on Burks’ lined single to right in the sixth to set the final tally.

The two, three and four hitters in the Panther lineup combined to go 9 of 9 with six runs and six RBI. Powell Bryant was 2 of 2. Cabot finished with 10 hits.

Reynolds went three innings, allowing three hits and one earned run while fanning two. Chase Beasley finished up with an inning of work, striking out two and walking one.

Cabot (8-3, 2-2 in 7A Central play) was to have played at Van Buren last night, but the game was cancelled. Weather permitting, the Panthers will host Russellville on Thursday.