On a night where both the Sulphur Springs and Hallsville pitchers started the baseball game with command issues, it was the Wildcats who took command of the game late.
The Wildcats put the finishing touches on a come-from-behind 5-4 victory over fifth-ranked Hallsville at Eagle Stadium by scoring three runs in the bottom of the sixth, including the game-winner on a wild pitch.
The victory clinches a playoff spot for the Wildcats (16-8-1 overall, 5-3 in District 14-4A), one game behind Hallsville (21-4, 7-2).
The Wildcats finished off the improbable win with a two-out rally that featured a walk to Willy Ivery, a hit-by-pitch to Alex Burney and consecutive RBI singles from Jordan Jackson and Cole Hill. Jackson scored the go-ahead run by advancing to third on a Hallsville error and racing home on a wild pitch.
“My gosh, I’m proud of these guys,” said Sulphur Springs head coach Jarrod Hammack. “They came back to beat a very good team. It’s big, very big. That secured a playoff spot – that did the first thing we need. Now, we need to finish this thing out and see if we can get a district championship.”
Both starting pitchers, SSHS senior Jenner Jackson and Hallsville southpaw Coby Weaver, battled command issues in the first few innings as Hallsville took a 4-1 lead. But, once Jackson settled into a groove, he allowed just two hits over the final three innings.
Fours were wild for Jackson – he allowed four runs, all earned, on four hits with four strikeouts and four walks. He also hit two batters.
All four of the Hallsville runs came in the first two innings. The Bobcats scored once in the first when Jacob Walker came around after leading off with a full-pitch walk. They added three more runs in the second inning as the first three batters reached on a walk to Austin Blakeley, a single by Andy Guinea and hit batter. The runners scored on a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch (both teams scored that unusual way), a sacrifice fly by Walker and an RBI single by Conner Reich.
After two innings, Jackson had thrown 50 pitches and Hammack wasn’t sure how long he would last. As it turns out, he threw just 52 pitches over the final four innings and sat down 10 of 12 batters he faced in the third through fifth innings. That was in part due to an outstanding lunging catch by shortstop Cole Hill on a sky high pop up in the fifth inning and a nice double 5-3 double play by third baseman Ben Brooks in the fourth with two on and one out.
Offensively, Burney was the catalyst from the lead-off spot. The junior infielder went 2-for-3 and reached in the critical sixth inning on a hit-by-pitch. He also scored three times. He led off the Sulphur Springs first with a single to right, moved to third on a walk to Hill and a hit-by-pitch of Kason Matthews. He scored when Larry Pryor was hit by a pitch with the bases full.
At the time, that tied the game at 1-1.
The Wildcats didn’t get on the scoreboard again until the fifth when Burney again led off with a single, this time a line drive to left. Jordan Jackson, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI, smashed a double into the leftfield alley, sending Burney to third. Hill’s infield grounder drove him home to cut the deficit to 4-2. Hill finished with two hits and two RBI.
Then, the fireworks started in the sixth as Ivery worked a full-count walk with one out against Weaver. The Bobcats then made a pitching chance and went to Ronnie Gideon, who with two outs hit Burney with an inside pitch. Jordan Jackson then drove an RBI single to right center and Hill lined a run-scoring single up the middle. Both runners advanced when the centerfielder bobbled the ball. Then with a 1-1 count on Jenner Jackson, Gideon’s ball in the dirt went to the backstop and Jordan Jackson raced home without a play at the plate.
In the top of the seventh, Jordan Jackson finished off the game by working a pair of infield outs and a pop fly around a walk.
“What battling our guys did,” Hammack said. “A lot of stuff was going their way, and I thought, ‘Things have to start going our way.’ It seemed like every call was against us. Our guys could have tanked it, but they didn’t.
“At this point in the season, you try to build them up. We practice so much, my philosophy is to let them go out there in the game and have fun and play to the best of their ability, and that’s all I ever ask. If we perform to our ability, I can live with the result, and I thought we did that tonight.”
In sub-varsity action at Hallsville, Sulphur Springs lost two games.
The JV lost 8-1. Dillon Carpenter and Hunter Elliott worked on the mound. Carson Hicks and C.J. Stephens contributed hits.
The freshmen fell 11-1, Kaden Moore pitched five innings. Hits came from Moore, Austin Reyes and Cain Cody.
The varsity Wildcats play at Pine Tree Friday at 7 p.m.
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