Twice the Wildcats rallied from behind.
The second time, sparked by a Jocko Spataro two-run double, Sulphur Springs got the lead to stay as they took a 10-7 win Friday over Longview.
The crowd in and around Eagle Stadium, including bleacher creatures on the top row of Gerald Prim Stadium got to see a thrilling battle with more twists and turns than a rollercoaster.
The District 13-4A game came down to the final innings, and actually down to one at-bat and in particular one pitch.
"It was a curveball that didn't curve, it just hung there," said Spataro of the Luke Nash pitch in the sixth inning. Spataro blasted the pitch down the left field line with two outs and two runners on base. Longview outfielder Andrew Deerfield tried to make a running grab, but the ball hit off his glove allowing Spataro to advance to second with a double, but more importantly two runs to score and break the 7-all tie. Spataro said, "I saw the pitch and hit it and it was like oh my God."
The Sulphur Springs bench erupted as they took the 9-7 lead during the sixth inning rally. Spataro knocking in Jace Jackson who had reached on infield hit and Mason Rawson who walked. Mason Morton and Ben Barrows went down on strikes leading up to Spataro's key hit.
The Wildcats tacked on a 10th run. Shane McQueen drew a walk and Spataro took third on a passed ball. Conner Brackhahn came off the bench and belted an RBI single to centerfield to make it a 10-7 game. Colby Suggs struck out as the game moved to the seventh inning.
Since Sulphur Springs had staged the second comeback, all they had to do to wrap up the win was get three outs.
Starting pitcher Kolton Jones was removed after six innings of work with Rawson inserted to get the save. Rawson got the first hitter to fly out, then allowed a double to William Johnson. But he slammed the door on thoughts of a Lobo rally as he coaxed Michael Lammert and Mack to fly out harmlessly to the outfield to end the game.
"This was a must win, I did not tell the kids it was a must win, but it was," Sulphur Springs head baseball coach Jerrod Hammack said. "This would have been a bad weekend. If you lose a game on Friday night you have to live with it the whole weekend. We're glad to be 1-1 and not 0-2, you don't want to start off district that way."
The coach continued, "We had to beat Longview they’re a team we should beat twice. No disrespect to coach (Andy) Malone he has won over 800 games in more than 40 years. But they're a team we need to beat like Mount Pleasant. We couldn’t lose and go down going to T. High Tuesday."
Kolton Jones got the win, allowing seven runs off nine hits, striking out six and walking three. Rawson pitched one inning, allowed one hit, no runs.
Nash took the loss in relief allowing the final three runs off three hits, two walks and striking out two. Starter Brian Tomlinson left when the game was tied at 7-all.
Spataro was not the only hitting star with Barrows getting two hits, three RBI; Jones had two hits including a solo homer; McQueen and Tripp Reeves also knocked in runs.
The visiting Lobos struck first with Trevor Moren reached on an infield hit then Johnson and Lammert followed with back-to-back doubles. When the smoke of the second inning rally had cleared, Sulphur Springs found themselves down 3-0.
The Wildcats scratched back for a run in the bottom of the second. Rawson singled. With two outs Barrows got on base when he was struck in the back with a pitch. Spataro singled to left field to plate the first run of the game for Sulphur Springs. McQueen walked to load the sacks, but Reeves grounded out to end the threat.
The Wildcats moved a step closer to coming back, adding a lone run off the bat of Jones with a homer to right field with the bases empty. Jackson followed with a single to the out field. Rawson reached on a walk. Grayson North grounded out, but the runners moved to second and third. Barrows knocked in both runners with a single to centerfield. Spataro grounded into a tag play on the runner to end the inning, but Sulphur Springs was ahead 4-3.
The Lobos would not give up and struck for three runs in the top of the fourth off two singles, two walks as they went ahead 5-4.
The Wildcats missed a scoring chance in the fourth when Reeves reached on a walk and Jones beat out a swinging bunt for a hit. With two runners on base, Jackson grounded into a force out.
Longview padded their lead with two runs tacked on in the fifth inning from two singles and some daring base running. The Lobos were up 7-4 with time running out on the Wildcats.
In the bottom of the fifth, North got the rally started as he reached on an infield throwing error. Barrows singled, but was thrown out at second trying to stretch the hit into a double, Spataro singled in North to make it a 7-5 game. McQueen doubled to the outfield wall to plate another run. Reeves reached on an error and a run scored on the play making it a 7-all ball game.
Longview went quickly in order with Brian Tomlinson and Preston Inman retired on strikes.
The thrilling bottom of the sixth began with an infield hit by Jackson. He then stole second base. Rawson got a base on balls to give the Wildcats two base runners. But Morton and Barrows were retired on strikes and it appeared the rally would fizzle, unless Spataro could come through. The junior catcher ripped the hanging curve down the left field line knocking in two runs to break the 7-all tie. The Wildcats added an insurance run and won by the 10-7 final.
"This was a nice win. We were down, but I thought it was a matter of time when we would comeback because the Longview pitching is not that strong. This was the first time we've scored 10 runs this year," Hammack said with a grin. "Jocko had several key hits, I think I will keep him hitting ninth, A lot of coaches would out think themselves and move him up since he is hitting, but he is hitting because in the ninth place he is getting some fastball. He's settled into the nine hole. He came up huge."
The coach was also pleased with the pitching of Jones who stepped in with Jake Dougan gone out-of-town on an ag trip.
"Kolton stepped up and was effective when he kept the ball down. Rawson came in and saved it for us in the seventh inning," Hammack said.
The coach said he was also happy with the big crowd for the home district opener.
"The kids and even some parents were up the football bleachers," Hammack said. "It's a neat atmosphere they get after the umpires and the opposing team, but in a clean way. It gives you a little bit of an advantage."
The Wildcats were scheduled to play Saturday in Forney before playing Tuesday at Texas High.
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