Leader Blues

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

SPORTS >> Battling Centennial Bank reaches state

Leader sports editor

From the moment the Cabot Centennial Bank seniors opened the Zone 3 American Legion tournament with a loss last Saturday, they were tiptoeing through a minefield that could have sent their state tournament hopes up in smoke.

But they made it through to the other side, and qualified for their first-ever state tournament with a 14-7 win over Russellville on Sunday. Cabot (16-10) needed to win two games against North Little Rock on Monday at Burns Park to earn the No. 1 seed.

It won the opener 12-2 to send the championship to a second game. But Cabot fell 7-4 in the nightcap and will open state tournament play — also at Burns Park — Friday at 4 p.m, likely against Jonesboro.

Cabot lost 5-3 in the opener on Saturday and faced elimination over the following three games. Rallies from five-run deficits against Sylvan Hills and Jacksonville kept Centennial Bank alive and put it one game away from qualifying for state. Cabot got three hits from Joe Bryant and a home run from Powell Bryant, and scored eight runs in the fifth inning to beat Russellville and reach the zone championship games.

Tyler Erickson picked up the win.

“That’s the thing about playing nine innings,” said Cabot coach Jay Darr. “We’re not like major league clubs with eight or nine pitchers so you can usually count on a couple of big innings (in tournaments like this). Really early on, I talked to the guys about not panicking if you get down early. These are long games.”

That victory over Russellville lacked the drama of the two previous wins. Cabot trailed Sylvan Hills Optimist Club 6-1 in the second inning in an elimination game on Saturday, but scored seven in the third to prevail 16-10. Centennial Bank dialed up the power in the win, getting home runs from Ty Steele, Sam Bates and Matt Turner. Bates was 5 of 6 with five RBI. Steele and Ben Wainwright added three more hits each as Cabot totaled 20.

Cole Nicholson had a shaky outing but held on for the victory.

Hunter Miller had two singles and two doubles and Geno Jameson a single and a home run for Optimist Club, whose season ended with the loss.

Centennial Bank found itself in the same situation on Sunday when it trailed Gwatney Chevrolet 7-2 before scoring one in the fourth and three in the fifth to get back in it.

Gwatney took an 8-6 lead into the eighth when Cabot erupted for five runs to take an 11-8 lead. Doubles by Steele and Bates provided the punch. Still, it took a harrowing save from C.J. Jacoby to secure the win as Gwatney scored two in the ninth and had the bases loaded with two outs. Jacoby got a pop to second to end it as Gwatney’s season came to a disappointing end.

Chase Beasley pitched 5 1/3 solid innings to keep Cabot in the -game and pick up the win. Bates had three hits and four RBI, while Tyler Erickson added three hits and three RBI.

With both North Little Rock and Cabot deep into their pitching rotations, Monday evening’s game figured to be an offensive affair. It was — for Cabot anyway. Jacoby got the start for Centennial Bank and it looked early on as though his night would be a short one after the Colts stung him for three solid hits and two runs in the first. A double play helped avert further damage but Cabot found itself in a 2-0 hole.

But the Centennial Bank bats, which had put up 44 runs in the previous four tournament games, went right to work on NLR starter Zach Ketchum. Andrew Reynolds and Steele singled and Bates was hit with a pitch. Burks grounded into a force at the plate, but Ben Wainwright came through with a two-out, bases clearing three-run double to put Centennial Bank ahead for good.

Jacoby allowed only three hits after the shaky first inning, tossing a six-hitter while walking two and striking out two over seven innings.

Centennial Bank added to its lead in the third on Burks’ double and Wainwright’s single. Wainwright went 3 of 4 with four RBI.

In the fourth, Steele lined a two-out double to right-center to score Brandon Surdam, then came home on Burks’ single to make it 6-2.

Colt reliever Cody Gill set down seven of the first eight batters he faced, but Cabot got to him in the seventh to score six unearned runs and end the game early.

Wainwright doubled with one out and Powell Bryant reached on an error. With two outs, Surdam was safe on another error as Wainwright scored. Bryant reached on an infield single to load the bases. Reynolds doubled in two runs and Steele singled in another to make it 11-2.

With two outs, Bates laid off a 2-2 pitch that just missed the inside corner, then ripped the next pitch into the gap in left to score Steele and end the game on the 10-run rule.

Centennial Bank pounded 14 hits, three each by Reynolds, Steele and Wainwright. Steele scored three times and drove in two.

The other teams in the state tournament will be Bryant, Texarkana, Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Joneboro and Pargould.