Leader Blues

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

SPORTS >> Lady Panthers hit stride for mid-season run

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

A fast start and a strong finish for Cabot resulted in a 11-0 blowout win over Russellville on Monday at Conrade Field. The Lady Panthers (9-5, 5-2 7A Central conf.) put up eight runs in the bottom of the first inning on their way to earning the run-rule after six innings.

“All in all, they did a good job,” said Lady Panther coach Becky Steward. “This is probably the second or third game that we’ve been able to put hits together consecutively and score off of them. We’ve been trying to do that all year long, and maybe we answered them today.”

Cabot worked the middle of the field in the bottom of the first, and took advantage of four errors by the Lady Cyclone defense.

Leadoff hitter Becca Bakalekos was the first to expose the weakness with a grounder that ended up as an error at shortstop.

Pete Reed hit to the same spot from the three-hole slot which resulted in another error on the throw to first. That allowed
Bakalekos to score for the first run of the game.

But it didn’t end there. Jenny Evans hit a fielder’s choice that turned into the third Russellville error, followed by another error at shortstop that allowed Brooke Taylor to reach and load the bases.

Pitcher Cherie Barfield got a walk off Russellville hurler Andrea Dixon for a bases-loaded walk that scored Reed, while Tara Boyd followed with the first actual hit of the game. Boyd sent a fly into right field for a double to bring in Evans and Taylor to make it 4-0. Sara Martin then drove in Barfield with a single, which brought Cabot back to the top of the order.

Bakalekos hit a double to left field to drive in Boyd, and Chelsea Conrade followed with the biggest hit of the game. Conrade sent a Dixon offering deep into centerfield for a triple, and scored Martin and Bakalekos to make it 8-0. Dixonfinally stopped the bleeding for Russellville by forcing a pop-up to second for the third out.

Defensively, the Lady Panthers sent Russellville three-up and three-down for the first three innings, including four strikeouts for Barfield.

The first slip came at the start of the fourth inning with an error at first, while Barfield gave up her first and only hit of the game to Lady Cyclone Chelsea White with two outs and one on. Barfield responded by fanning Savannah Jackson to leave two stranded for Russellville.

Despite one hiccup in the fourth, first baseman Martin showed lots of hustle and vast improvement from the start of the season. Martin, a junior, is a third-baseman by nature, but Steward said her move across the diamond was a necessary one.

“She’s not comfortable with it, but she’s going to have to get there quick,” said Steward. “She’s made some improvements, she just needs to continue to improve.”

Barfield ended the game with 10 strikeouts, while allowing only one hit and no walks.

“She was pretty solid. I still wish she would get more control,” said Steward. “From inning to inning, sometimes she has the tendency to get a little wild. She always comes back, but one of these days, it might not be able to come back.”

Cabot finished things off an inning early in the bottom of the sixth. Conrade led off the inning with a single, and Reed doubled to move her to third.

Conrade scored when Taylor beat the throw to first for an infield hit, and Kristi Flesher doubled in the final two runs.

Conrade and Boyd were both 2 of 3 with two RBI. Barfield was 2 of 2 with a RBI.

The Lady Panthers also picked up a pair of wins over the weekend in the Batesville tournament before falling 3-1 to Paragould in the championship game. Cabot advanced to the final with a huge 9-3 over the host Lady Pioneers. Barfield recorded 14 strikeouts for the game and 32 for the weekend.

Cabot hosted Conway on Tuesday, and will play at Mount St. Mary on Thursday before hosting Beebe in non-conference play on Friday.