Cabot pitcher blanks Lady Hornets in first-place battle

CABOT — In a first-place showdown in the 6A-Central Conference, Cabot pitcher Akayla Barnard held the Bryant Lady Hornets to just three hits and Emily Whitman slugged a home run and drove in three as the Lady Panthers remained unbeaten overall this season and in league play with a 4-0 victory.

It was the first time in 19 games this season that the Lady Hornets, now 14-5 and 3-1, were shut out.

Barnard walked one and only struck out two. Cabot committed two errors, but the Lady Hornets just couldn’t find the key hit when they needed it.

Christine Mefford, who started in the circle for Bryant, had a two-out single in the top of the third. Bella Herring then reached on an error but a flyout ended the threat.

Barnard and the Lady Panthers retired eight in a row before Herring reached on a one-out error in the top of the fifth. She stole second and took third on a wild pitch. Macy Hoskins tried to squeeze Herring home, but Barnard fielded the bunt and threw home in time for the out.

Kallee Nichols followed with a lined single to left but, with runners at first and second, Barnard induced a grounder to second to preserve the shutout.

In the top of the sixth, Bryant made some noise when Abby Gentry singled to left and Leah Hicks walked. But a fly to center and a pop to second followed.

Hoskins was hit by a pitch with one out in the top of the seventh, but she was stranded.

Cabot took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Barnard led off with a single to left then Adreya Braddy sacrificed her to second. Savannah Snow singled to center then Whitman hit a grounder to Herring at short. They got a force at second but couldn’t complete the doubleplay and Barnard scored.

Singles by Emma Holland and Paige Peirpoint chased in the second run before Mefford got the final out on a grounder to Herring at short.

Bryant retired the Lady Panthers in order in the bottom of the second. But, in the third, Snow singled with one out and Whitman belted her homer to center and the final score was on the board.

Hicks relieved Mefford in the bottom of the fourth and worked around a one-out single by Jarah Potter and a two-out walk to Barnard.

Snow walked to start the bottom of the fifth but, with one out, she was forced at second on Holland’s liner to right, which fell in front of Nichols.

Potter doubled with one out in the bottom of the sixth and, despite a walk to Barnard, Hicks and the Lady Hornets’ defense forced them to strand both runners.

Bryant plays at Little Rock Central (at J.A. Fair) on Wednesday then hosts North Little Rock on Thursday.

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