PARIS — Sulphur Springs battled back from an early deficit to score five runs in the top of the eighth to take a 6-3 win over North Lamar in a rare Friday afternoon contest.
The spring break crowd on the breezy day got to see a game which was exciting and not decided until the final inning, but the game was hardly a training tape on how to play on the diamond.
The Wildcats did their damage late, putting up five runs in the eighth as they batted around. During that frame Ethan Phillips, Dillon Carpenter, Ross Cody, Alex Burney, Carson and Brennan Brock were key contributors. North Lamar helped the cause with an error and two walks in the frame.
The Wildcats took the 6-1 lead late in the game, but allowed two runs in the bottom of the eighth, holding on tightly to leave town with the 6-3 baseball victory.
The Wildcats had nine hits, while the Panthers recorded three. North Lamar took advantage of four errors by Sulphur Springs.
The win was the 10th of the year, but the victory did not please Sulphur Springs head baseball coach Jerrod Hammack.
"We’ve got to play better than this. We can't come out and have this kind of game in district," Hammack said. "We're better than this. We were fortunate to get the win, we sure did not play well. The sun was shining, it was a beautiful day, I don't know why did not come out concentrating on what we needed to do."
It wasn't just the fielding miscues which caused concern, but the hitting by the Wildcats.
Hammack said, "We are not having quality at-bats. We really have played well since the Lindale scrimmage, not the way I know we can. We are swinging at bad pitches, hitting too many pop ups. We're not driving the ball and we are leaving people stranded on the bases when we have the opportunity to score."
For the game, the Wildcats left eight runners on base.
The coach was complimentary of starting pitcher Garret Hood who went five innings allowing just one run before he was replaced by Tyler Follis.
Follis got the win in relief. Hunter Coleman pitched the eighth inning.
"Garret had his curveball working and that is good," Hammack said. "We are going to need him to be one of our starters in district.”
The game with North Lamar was a pitcher's battle early. Hood and Panther lefty Brandon Dusenberry put up goose eggs on the scoreboard. The first score of the game came by North Lamar in the fifth when the Panthers broke the scoring seal.
The Panthers scratched across a run in the bottom of the fifth taking advantage of one fielding and one throwing mistake by the Wildcats. A double steal by the Panthers aided the cause as they edged ahead 1-0.
The lead for North Lamar did not last long as the Wildcats immediately answered the challenge. With two outs in the top of the sixth junior Larry Pryor muscled up on a pitch, hammering the offering over the left field fence for a solo homer. Phillips followed with a single and Dillon Carpenter coaxed a walk. The bases on balls was the finally undoing for starter Dusenberry as he was removed from the mound. Ty Jones took over on the hill and got Hood to make the third out on a pop fly to the catcher with two runners on the sacks.
Follis took over on the hill for the Wildcats as action shifted to the bottom of the sixth. Follis hit Hunter Reeves of North Lamar in the shoulder with his first pitch. North Lamar also got a walk and two runners in scoring position before Follis regrouped to strike out Jones to end the possible threat.
Neither team scored in the seventh frame, despite opportunities and the game went to extra innings.
In the top of the eighth, Pryor who had proved his power, got a walk to start the Wildcat rally. Phillips singled and Carpenter beat out a bunt to load the sacks with no outs. Cody came off the bench and hit an infield chopper to deep second base, the fielder tried for a force out at home, but the throw was lead. The Wildcats now had a 2-1 lead, the bases loaded and no outs. Ryan Ferguson struck out. Alex Burney came up big with a two-run single, he took second on the throw in. Jones was then pulled and new pitcher Kevin Dickey took over on the hill for North Lamar. Landon Brock worked a walk to re-load the bases. Brennan Brock hit a wild blown pop fly down the right field line which fell in scoring another run to make it 5-1. Hicks ripped a sacrifice fly ball to left field to make it a 6-1 lead. Pryor hit into a fielder's choice to end the rally, but the damage was done. The home town Panthers were now in a deep hole, trailing 6-1.
Coleman finished out the game for Sulphur Springs pitching the bottom of the eighth. A walk and an error gave North Lamar hope for a comeback. A double steal moved both runners into scoring position. The Panthers managed a run off a sacrifice fly and an infield grounder. But Coleman got Colton Wise on a pop fly for the final out to preserve the Sulphur Springs 6-3.
"We got the win, but we have to step up and play better," Hammack said. "We have to do better, we open district Tuesday. We have not played a complete, good game in a while. We need to get back to playing like we did in the Lee and the Lindale Tournaments. When we play that way, we can contend with any team. I have confidence we will play better in district."
The Wildcats host rival Mount Pleasant at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the District 14-4A opener.
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