Once again the Wildcats ran into a buzz saw.
District 14-4A is becoming known as the birthplace of ace pitchers. Major league and college scouts have been flocking to the games.
Texas High trotted out Ryan Fant and the University of Arkansas signee fanned 15 Wildcats as the Tigers took an 8-2 win.
Fant had at least one strikeout in every inning. The 6-5 southpaw struck out five of the first nine batters he faced. Fant ended the game the saw way, striking out the final two batters of the game for the Tigers.
Tyler Follis, who has the two district wins this season, took the loss for the Wildcats. He went 5 1/3 innings, allowing eight runs, walking five, hitting one batter and surrendering six hits. Ben Brooks closed out the game on the mound. He faced five batters allowing one hit, no runs, striking out one.
The Wildcats fell to 2-5 in district, last place in the standings. Texas High took the much-needed win and now are 3-5 in 14-4A action.
Sulphur Springs still has hope for a playoff berth. But face an uphill climb with games left against Hallsville, Pine Tree and Marshall. Hallsville is 22-2 overall and state-ranked. The Bobcats edged Pine Tree 1-0 Friday in district play at Longview in yet another pitching battle. The Bobcats ace Conner Reich fanned out 18 allowing just two hits, defeating Chandler Minze.
Fant was just as overwhelming, allowing just five hits on the night. Alex Burney, the senior leadoff hitter, had two hits, one run knocked in and a run scored. Landon Brock and C.J. Stephens had hits.
Carson Hicks, forced into action at catcher, contributed an RBI double. Starting catcher Ryan Ferguson was injured in pre-game drills and Hicks got the late call to work behind the plate and did well considering the short notice and circumstances.
The visitors had a quiet first inning, going down in order.
Sulphur Springs drew first blood, scoring in the bottom of the first. Burney connected with the first pitch he saw from Fant and rapped a single to right field. Landon Brock struck out. Burney stole second and Brennan Brock went down on strikes. Hicks worked the count to 2-2 and line a double into the outfield gap to give the Wildcats an early 1-0 lead. The runner moved to third on a passed ball and the Wildcats had a chance for another run. But Fant limited the damage to a lone run, striking out Ethan Phillips to end the bottom of the first.
Both teams got base runners, but no runs in the scoreless second frame.
Texas High gave Fant the lead and the put up a crooked number of the scoreboard with a three-run rally in the top of the third.
Follis issued walks to Trevor Danley and Lyle Preston to give the Tigers two base runners. Leadoff hitter Alex Kugler was retired on and infield ground out. With runners at first and third, Taylor Jones hit a humpback line back to left field that fell in for a base-scoring single. Fant drew a walk to load the sacks. Marshall McPherson was hit by a pitch to make it a 2-1 game. Anthony Rhone drove in a run with a deep fly ball to the outfield and Texas High was up 3-1. Clete Norton was retired on a ground ball to first base as the rally ended.
The Wildcats got a one-out solid single from Landon Brock in the bottom of the third. He quickly stole second base. Brennan Brock went down swinging and Hicks was retired on a fly ball to the outfield as the potential rally fizzled.
In the top of the fourth, Braden Herman of the Tigers hit a sizzler to the hole at shortstop, Landon Brock made a nice backhand pick and throw to retire the batter. Texas High got a base runner with a walk to Preston, but were unable to score.
The Wildcats went quietly in the bottom of the fourth, Fant getting two outs on K’s. One was a called third strike and the other was a swinging strikeout.
The Tigers did manage to score once in the top of the fifth. The rally began with Jones and Fant hitting back-to-back singles. McPherson went down on strikes and Rhone grounded out. With two outs Norton belted a single to left field to make it a 4-1 game. Follis got the third out when Herman watched the third strike cross the plate and land in Hicks’ glove.
The Wildcats could not pad their lead in the middle innings. Fant struck out two in the bottom of the fifth to silence Sulphur Springs.
In the top of the sixth, Texas High had their best inning of the game, putting a four spot on the board. The Tigers padded the lead to 8-1. Follis was removed from the hill in favor of Brooks. Brooks got the final outs without surrendering a run.
Sulphur Springs showed they had some fight left in the bottom of the seventh as they scratch across a run and loaded the bases. Burney’s run scoring single would be the only highlight of the final frame. Fant sat down Landon Brock and Brennan Brock on back-to-back strikeouts to conclude the game.
The Wildcats play at district-leader Hallsville Tuesday at 7 p.m.
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