Leader Blues

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

SPORTS >> Cabot rally falls short in semis

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

FAYETTEVILLE — The Cabot Panthers dug themselves a deep early hole, then tried valiantly, but futilely, to climb out of it.
In the end, too many errors, two many walks and too many hit batters proved too much for the Panthers to overcome in an 8-7 loss to Fort Smith Southside in the 7A state semifinals.

“The way Cole (Nicholson) threw (in a win over Bryant on Monday), I really liked our chances if we made it to (the title game),” said head coach Jay Fitch, whose Panthers concluded the season with a 19-9 mark. “We just didn’t quite seal the deal.”

Southside scored a run in the first and four more in the second to jump out to a 5-0 lead on Tuesday. But Ben Wainwright’s three-run home run in the third got the Panthers right back in it. It was Wainwright’s sixth home run of the season, tying a school record.

The Rebels, though, punched across two more in the bottom of the inning to extend the lead to 7-3.

Once again, the Panthers responded, narrowing the gap to one with three more in the fourth. With one out, Ty Steele singled and Joe Bryant reached on an error. Powell Bryant delivered a two-run double and Burks cut it to 7-6 with an RBI single.

Though the Rebels added an insurance run, Tyler Erickson, who was named to the All-Tournament team, belted a solo home run to make it 8-7.

Cabot had one final chance in the seventh when it put runners at the corners, but couldn’t get them home.

“We just made too many errors,” Fitch said. “I told the kids that the bottom line was we just didn’t deserve to win today. We gave them four or five unearned runs and probably nine or 10 base runners where they didn’t even have to swing the bat. You can’t do that against a good team like that.”

Andrew Reynolds got the start after throwing 62 pitches in Cabot’s two games on Monday — an 8-6 win over Rogers and a 7-4 win over Bryant.

“Andrew couldn’t throw quite as hard as he normally does and his breaking pitch didn’t have its normal bite,” Fitch said. “But he really didn’t do too bad. Erickson came in and really did a good job in relief.”

The Panthers made it to Tuesday’s semifinal round with a 7-4 win over 7A-Central foe and No. 1 seed Bryant on Monday night.

Cole Nicholson took the win after being relieved by Andrew Reynolds in the seventh inning. Nicholson struck out seven and
walked only one.

Tyler Erickson hit a home run in the fourth inning, as Cabot built a 7-1 lead going into the final frame. Bryant rallied with three runs in the seventh. Cabot won its first-round game against Rogers 8-6 behind a three-RBI performance from Erickson.

Reynolds and Steele added two RBI each.

“Considering everything we went through, this was a pretty good season,” said Fitch, whose team endured the loss of two starters to moving and battled injury and illness most of the season. “We really only had a healthy lineup the final two weeks. It was just one thing after another. But I liked the way our kids fought.”

Cabot loses three starters to graduation — Burks, Wainwright and Matthew Turner.