MOUNT PLEASANT — District games are a different animal.
After winning 10 of the last 11, the Wildcats found the going tough in 14-4A play.
The Sulphur Springs Wildcats saw their five-game winning streak disappear into the cool March night as they fell 3-0 to Michael Kopech and the Mount Pleasant Tigers.
Kopech, a lanky senior right-hander, held the Wildcats scoreless for the evening, giving up just three hits. Kopech fanned seven batters during his complete game performance and never allowed Sulphur Springs to get a rally going.
"We seemed out of sync. We never got going, give Kopech some credit," said Jerrod Hammack, Sulphur Springs head baseball coach. "Kopech was very efficient and in the zone all night. We took too many first pitch strikes from him. That put him in the driver's seat and he outmatched us."
Sulphur Springs made three errors in the game and perhaps the biggest play of the game was a play which wasn't made or ruled an error. In the bottom of the second, Sulphur Springs failed to catch a routine fly ball in the outfield. The end results, two cheap runs for Mount Pleasant.
"That was a play we usually make. In fact, I was writing down an out in the scorebook and looked up and the ball had fallen in," Hammack said with bewilderment. "We just did not do the things we have been doing lately during out run of winning 10 of the last 11 games."
Jordan Jackson was the hard-luck losing pitcher in the game. Ben Brooks finished the game off in relief, hurling two scoreless innings.
Neither team pounded the ball as they just combined for eight hits.
After a scoreless first inning, it looked like Sulphur Springs had a rally going in the second.
Kason Matthews singled to right field. Alex Burney attempted a sacrifice bunt, but it appeared he had reached first base while Matthews ran all the way to third base as no call was made. After the officials had a meeting or two, Burney was ruled out and Matthews returned to second base. Larry Pryor grounded out, but Matthews advanced to third. Brennan Brock was called out on a third strike at the dish, caught watching a Kopech offering for the third out.
Zach Irvin started off the Tigers rally in the bottom of the second with a single to left field. Riley Greenlee reached on an infield hit of the pitcher's glove. Irvin was picked off third. Kopech reached on a walk. Ryan Kelly struck out. With runners at first and second, Jordan Jackson threw to first base, but was called for a balk. The runners each moved up a base to second and third. Tehron Rogers hit a high fly ball to the outfield which fell in untouched between all fielders and two runs scored for the Tigers to make it a 2-0 game. Mount Pleasant was unable to pad the advantage with Monty James grounding out for the third out of the frame.
Kopech now had a lead and smelled blood and maybe a win. He struck out Cabo Sanvig and Willy Ivery on back-to-back called third strikes. Jordan Jackson singled. But was left stranded when Cole Hill popped up to the first baseman.
The Tigers struck for a lone run in the bottom of the third. Walks by Jordan Raney and Irvin game Mount Pleasant two base runners with two out. Greenlee struck out. Kopech helped his own cause, singling home the third and final run of the game.
Sulphur Springs flashed some impressive leather with good defensive plays later in the game. Cole Hill snagged a line drive in the fourth inning and flipped the ball to Burney at second for a slick double play.
Jenner Jackson at third base made some nice plays in the fifth inning on hard hit shots from the Tigers.
Kopech got the complete game win for the Tigers.
The Wildcats fell to 10-5-1 on the year, 0-1 in District 14-4A play. Mount Pleasant is now 11-6 overall, 1-0 in district.
Hammack said, "I say this every year, but the baseball race is a marathon, not a sprint. This is one game. We wanted to win it, but it did not work out. Perhaps we had put too much emphasis on this game. It was just one district game. We have to regroup and get ready to host Texas High team.”
Hammack added, “We have a lot of respect for Texas High. They always bring out the best competition from us. I expect a very good game."
Texas High lost their district opener, 2-0 to Pine Tree.
Hammack said that Jenner Jackson will draw the starting mound assignment for the 7 p.m. Friday home game.
In home junior varsity action Tuesday against Mount Pleasant, Hunter Elliott and Hunter Coleman combined on a two-hit shutout in the 4-0 win for Sulphur Springs.
Elliott went 4 innings, gave up a single, one walk and struck out 3. Coleman went three innings, gave up a single, one walk and struck out 4.
Kade Hudgins and Dylan Carpenter both went 2 for 3 at the plate to lead the 9-hit attack. Ethan Phillips and Carson Hicks both doubled, while C.J. Stephens, Landon Brock and Elliott all contributed singles. Stephens, Brock, Ryan Ferguson and Phillips all knocked in runs.
The Sulphur Springs freshmen won 12-1 over Mount Pleasant. Cain Cody got the pitching win in five innings.
“Everyone hit well. It was a great team effort,” said coach Bruce Silman.
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