Leader Blues

Friday, July 24, 2009

SPORTS>>Triple play dooms Centennial Bank

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

Cabot has been here before and survived.

In fact, it was just last weekend that the Centennial Bank Legion seniors began zone tournament play with a loss before battling back to earn one of two berths to the state tournament.

But this climb figures to be a lot steeper after Cabot fell 9-3 to Jonesboro in the opening round of the American Legion senior state tournament at Burns Park on Friday evening.

Cabot (16-11) faces Fayette-ville today at 10 a.m. in an elimination game.

The tale of Friday’s game can be told in the eighth inning when Cabot had everything set up and came away empty before Jonesboro turned a ho-hum start to its half of the inning into five unearned runs to put the game away.

Trailing just 4-3 in the eighth inning, Centennial Bank loaded the bases with no one out after Ben Wainwright was hit with a pitch, Powell Bryant singled and Chase Thompson was safe on a bunt single when no one covered first.

Joe Bryant stepped in against relief pitcher Brendan Camp and hit a rocket, but right at second baseman James Day, who began and completed that rarest of all baseball plays: the unassisted triple play. Day stepped on second to double up Powell Bryant and tagged out Thompson running from first to squash an enormous opportunity.

But with the heart of the order coming up in the ninth, Centennial Bank was far from out of it and, despite a one-out error in the bottom of the eighth, it looked like Cabot would remain within a single run after Dustin Jones grounded into the second out of the inning.

Then, it all came unraveled over the next three batters. A single, another error and a grand slam by Kameron Walker made it 8-3. Three more singles added another run and put the game out of reach.

The contest featured 40 base runners — 23 by the Ricemen — but only 12 scored. Jonesboro had two runners thrown out at the plate and another cut down by catcher Wainwright trying to steal. On top of that, the Ricemen also stranded 10 runners.

But Cabot missed out on nearly as many opportunities, stranding 11 — including eight over the first four innings.

The biggest lost chance — other than the one the triple play ended in the eighth — came an inning earlier when a single by Joe Bryant, a walk to Reynolds and Steele’s RBI single to center narrowed the Jonesboro lead to 4-2 and put Cabot in business with two on, no one out and hot-hitting Sam Bates at the plate.

Bates hit the ball hard, but right to Day at second, who turned a 4-6-3 double play. Cabot did close the gap further when Reynolds came in on an errant throw on Drew Burks’ grounder to short.

Cole Nicholson allowed 18 hits over 7 2/3 innings, but only four earned runs. Nicholson fanned three, walked one and hit two others. He left for C.J. Jacoby in the never-ending eighth. Jacoby ended the inning with a ground out, retiring the only batter he faced.

Jonesboro starter Cade Lynch, an all-state hurler for Valley View High, was tough on the red-hot Cabot hitters, especially early on.

But two walks and a hit batter gave Centennial Bank a chance to strike first in the opening frame. Lynch, though, was able to strike out Matt Turner, and Jonesboro responded with three in the bottom of the first. It began with a misplayed triple to center. An infield single, a hit batter and two more singles produced the three runs, but a shortstop-to-second-to-first double play kept things from getting out of hand.

Bates got Cabot’s first hit off Lynch when he rocketed a double to left center with two outs in the third. Burks was hit with a pitch, but Turner flied out to center as Cabot came up empty again.

Wainwright belted a leadoff home run to straightaway center in the fourth. A walk to Powell Bryant and a bunt single by Thompson put two on with no one out. But Lynch got the next three batters as Cabot stranded their seventh and eighth runners.

A two-out double got Jones-boro its three-run lead back in the fifth. Lynch settled down to retire the side in the fifth and the sixth, retiring nine in a row before Joe Bryant’s leadoff single started Cabot’s two-run seventh.

Centennial Bank managed only seven hits — two by Thompson.

Lynch struck out seven, but walked five and hit three.