By DON WALLACE
News-Telegram Sports Editor
It was an unexpected district win which will send shock waves throughout 14-4A, — Sulphur Springs 1, Hallsville 0.
Tyler Follis and Connor Reich matched up for a classic pitcher’s duel that saw the pair allow just three total hits, they combined for 21 strikeouts.
When the dust cleared in the game which only took 98 minutes to play, it was the hometown Wildcats grabbing their first win in district play.
Hallsville, a highly-touted team which came into the game as one of the top teams in Class 4A, left town at 18-2, 2-1 after the loss.
“We needed this, we really needed this. This was a big win against a great team,” said Jerrod Hammack, Sulphur Springs head baseball coach. “Hallsville is such a good program. I knew we would compete. We beat Hallsville here last year. This was a great win for us that we will use as a spring board for the rest of the year.”
Reich, who has signed to pitch next year at TCU, allowed one run in the first inning and was tagged with the loss. In the game he struck out 13, allowing just one hit, walking one. Twice he struck out the side. After the first inning wobble, he retired the next 15 batters in order.
Follis, the winning pitcher, fanned eight, walked four, allowed two hits, no runs while throwing more than 110 pitches.
“Tyler had it all working. He has three pitches - a fastball, curve and change-up, they all were getting outs,” Hammack said. “I knew he was getting up there in pitches, but he wanted to finish it and had a great game. He shut down a very good Hallsville lineup and you have to tip your hat when a kid does that. He was working both sides of the plate and pitched well. Reich had a good game too, he is the reigning district MVP. He was bringing it pretty hard too. But we battled and won, that’s the big thing.”
The Wildcats are 12-6, 2-1 after the needed victory.
The game came down to action in the first inning which would decide the game.
Follis got the Bobcats in order on three quick out in the top of the first frame.
Leading off hitter, speedster Alex Burney reached on infield chopper for a base hit. Brennan Brock drew a walk and Sulphur Springs had two fast baserunners to start the game. Landon Brock popped out, but during his at-bat Burney advanced to third. Hicks went down on strikes, but a pitch from Reich got away from the catcher far enough for Burney to take a calculated risk, a quick dash for home. Burney beat the tag at the dish and Sulphur Springs had a 1-0 lead. Larry Pryor went down on strikes to end the first, but the Wildcats had the lead.
Follis stayed in form, getting the heart of the Bobcat order on a ground out, line drive out and strikeout.
Reich was starting to get loose on the hill and the future Horned Frog sat down the Wildcats on three straight strikeouts in the bottom of the second.
In the top of the second, it seemed like Hallsville might be starting something. With two outs Nathan Bailey clubbed a double. Follis regrouped and retired leadoff hitter Jacob Walker on a fly ball to center.
Sulphur Springs again went down in order, this time in the bottom of the second.
The Hallsville squad tried to get a two-out rally going in the top of the fourth. Cleanup hitter Logan Bailey connected with a 3-2 pitch for a slow roller down the third base line he beat for an infield hit. Colton Oberthier coaxed a walk to give the visitors two baserunners. Michael Graham went down swinging and the Bobcats saw another scoring chance disappear into the cool March air.
Reich had a dominating bottom of the fourth as he struck out the side, two batters went down looking at the third strike from the right-hander.
Hallsville got two walks in the bottom of the fifth, but again could not come up with the key hit to get on the scoreboard.
Pitchers remained in control of the game. Reich got three outs on seven pitches in the bottom of the fifth. Follis showed his stuff striking out two of the three batters he faced, the other hitter went down on a harmless ground ball to first base.
Reich recorded strikeouts No. 12 and 13 in the bottom of the sixth, but Sulphur Springs was still clinging to the 1-0 lead.
Hallsville had one chance left as action shifted to the seventh. Lance Lassen was retired on a ground out. Coby Weaver worked the count full, but still could not connect and went down swinging. With two outs, Macailyn Wilder drew a four pitch walk. Hammack strolled to the mount for a conference with Follis and left the hurler on the hill. It only took Follis four pitches the close out the game as he caught Bailey looking at a third strike.
Sulphur Springs players celebrated the win on the field and in the dugout. Hallsville prepared for the long ride home.
“I told the players they could enjoy the win tonight,” Hammack said.
“But when we start practice for Pine Tree, we need to be focused on that game.”
The Wildcats play at Pine Tree Friday with the varsity game set for 7 p.m.
“Pine Tree is pretty good and that’s a tough place to play,” Hammack said.
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