After playing dead even baseball for seven innings and almost two hours, something had to give. The Lions got the break and won 2-1 in Game 1 of a best-of-three bi-district baseball playoff series.
With one in the bottom of the eighth, Lion Parker Hale reached base when relief pitcher Mason Rawson hit him with a pitch in the upper arm. Dustin Thomas was inserted as a pinch-runner. Thomas stole second and later advanced to third when an errant throw by catcher Jocko Spataro. Matt Free slapped an infield chopper to first base that Mason Morton fielded and immediately threw home. Thomas beat the throw to the plate and the Lions managed a 2-1 win in thrilling fashion.
Henderson players who are making their first playoff appearance in five years, poured onto the field in celebration as the Wildcats walked off in dejection.
Pitcher Rawson took the loss in relief for Sulphur Springs. Wildcat starter Colby Suggs got a no decision for his hard night of work, giving up one run off two hits, fanning 17 batters as he threw 111 pitches. Four times he struck out three batters in an inning.
“Suggs deserved to win that game,” said a disappointed Sulphur Springs head baseball coach Jerrod Hammack. “He threw mainly fastballs and spotted them well. He was on his game, he’s a competitor. He wanted to go back out for the eighth inning, but he had done enough, I have to think about his future. I’ll take seven innings like that from him every time. Rawson did a good job in relief, he just had that one lapse in control where he hit the batter and Henderson made the most of it.”
The Wildcats had chances to go ahead or get a run during the game but could not string together enough hits to touch up Lions pitcher Tyrell Jenkins.
Jenkins got the win, allowing one run, three hits in seven innings, striking out six and walking four.
In the first inning, the Wildcats quickly had a runner in scoring position with Tripp Reeves doubling to the right/centerfield gap with one out. Suggs grounded out, but moved the runner to third. Kolton Jones grounded to the shortstop for the third out and the scoring chance for Sulphur Springs was missed.
The Lions went quickly in the first inning with Suggs erasing a runner who walked with a sneaky pick off move to first for an out.
Henderson scratched across a run in the bottom of the second to break the seal on the game.
Eric Grace doubled down the left field line with one out. A bad pick off throw to second from Suggs allowed Grace to take third. With Daniel Prior at the plate, a low pitch from Suggs got by Spataro allowing a run to score. On the play, Suggs was in position to cover the plate and caught the ball only to have Grace knock the ball out as he crossed home plate. Suggs regrouped to get the next two batters on strikes and keep the game at 1-0.
Suggs continued his dominance, retiring three Lions in order on strikes in the bottom of the third.
What turned out to be the only Sulphur Springs run of the game came in the third inning. Jenkins was getting wobbly on the mound opening the fourth frame with walks to Suggs and Jones. Rawson bunted the runners over to second and third. Jace Jackson’s ground ball to second scored Grayson North who was running for Suggs, making it a 1-1 game.
In the top of the fifth, Shane McQueen rapped a double to right field, but was left stranded on the sacks.
Suggs worked out of a jam in the fifth, coming back to fan two batters in order to leave two runners on base.
In the sixth, Sulphur Springs got an runner on base when he reached on a fielding error. But the runner was picked off by Jenkins.
The Wildcats had a chance in the top of the seventh when Jackson beat out an infield hit on a slow roller to third. Conner Brackhahn was trying to bunt the runner over and popped the ball up to Jenkins on the mound, the lanky hurler turned and threw quickly to first to complete a double play. Another scoring chance, missed by the Wildcats.
Suggs finish the seventh with a flourish fanning three of the final four batters he faced. The big right-hander leaving with the game deadlocked at 1-all.
Henderson rallied for a run in the bottom of the eighth to take the 2-1 win in a spirited game.
The series switches to Sulphur Springs with Game 2 set tonight at 7 p.m. at Eagle Stadium on the SSHS campus.
“We will do everything possible to get our field playable for this game. We need the home field advantage and a big crowd,” said Hammack. “I’ll take our chances and feel good with Jake Dougan on the mound against Henderson. This series is not over - - we expect to play well at home. We have played well at home all season.”
Game 3, if needed, will be played at 2 p.m. Saturday at Gilmer.
Game 1 linescore
Henderson 2, Sulphur Springs 1
Sulphur Springs 000 100 00 1-3-1
Henderson 010 000 01 2-2-2
2B- Reeves, McQueen, Grace.
Next up- Game 2 at Henderson at SS, 7 p.m. today; Game 3,
if needed, Saturday, 2 p.m., Gilmer HS.
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