|Wildcats holding it together|
|Tyler Clifton | News-Telegram Sports Writer|
April 7, 2004 -- McKINNEY NORTH -- Senior Colston Copeland tried his best to rally the team together after its post-game pep talk Tuesday night from head coach Rahn Smith.
If there was ever a sign that Sulphur Springs was starting to turn the corner, it was evident against district leader McKinney North. It sounds crazy considering the fact that Bulldog pitcher Jordan Torr no-hit the Wildcats in a 2-0 win for MNHS, but those who saw the game know it's true.
Not bad timing for the first no-hitter in the Bulldogs' short two-year history since it kept them undefeated in district and sent SSHS to its sixth straight loss.
It wasn't a typical no-hit game either, as only three Wildcat batters struck out, but as has been the case of late, the Wildcats continue to hit the ball right at people. The phrase "the ball hasn't bounced their way" has been used before, but it has to be used.
Just a half-inning after catcher Riley Tatum tagged out Jordon Hooker after receiving a perfect bounce off the backstop from a wild pitch, the Bulldogs got a bounce of their own that was the turning point in the game.
MNHS (9-8, 4-0 District 11-4A) led 2-0 after scoring a run in each of the first two innings, but the Wildcats (7-11-1, 0-4) threatened in the fourth.
Adam Peugh drew a leadoff walk and reached second on Logan Pogue's sacrifice bunt. Sam Smith hit a line drive up the middle that knocked the glove off Torr's hand, but the pitcher showed his composure and threw out Smith to keep the no-hitter in tact. The bad bounce came on a pitch in the dirt that ricocheted back to catcher Dustin Payne and forced Peugh to stay at third. Torr intentionally walked Casey McMahan and induced a fly ball from Tatum to end the threat.
"That's our luck right now," Rahn Smith said. "Sam knocks the pitcher down on a ball that would've ended up in center field and scored a run for us. We hit the ball hard several times and still got nothing to show for it.
"I feel so bad for the kids, because I know how hard they've worked to improve. We've just got to keep searching, and hopefully those bloopers, choppers and hard-hit balls will find holes."
Only one other SSHS batter reached base the rest of the game, as Josh Riley slid into second on a ball that went through Hooker's legs.
It overshadowed what was an impressive showing from sophomore starter Alex Aguilar (1-4) who allowed only two runs and seven hits. He had command of his fastball, and with the help of a solid defensive effort, got out of a couple of jams as well.
"They came out ready to play and did a good job of getting their leadoff guys on base," Aguilar said. "I threw too many balls in the dirt, but the defense played well behind me and helped me get out of some bad situations.
"Stuff like this happens, but we're not going to quit. We need to have a turning point in district, and I think this could be it."
Three walks were what hurt Aguilar the most, including one to Stephen Donaldson in the first. John Kerby hit a flare to left field that landed just inside the line to drive home Donaldson.
Alex Burris and Hooker singled in the second, while Donaldson's sacrifice fly to center scored what wound up being the final run of the game. The leadoff hitter reached base in all but the final inning.
Torr had an infield hit to start the third, before Aguilar retired the next three batters. Jesse Laster singled to center in the fourth but was doubled off a first by Aguilar on an attempted sacrifice. Zack Wilhite made a diving catch in right field, cradling the ball in his arm to thwart a two-out rally.
Torr singled to left in the fifth, while an error and a hit batsman loaded the bases, but Aguilar got out of the inning unscathed.
"He threw his fastball well and stayed ahead of hitters for the most part," said MNHS coach Brandon Milam, referring to Aguilar. "He spread the hits out and seemed to have a lot of confidence on the mound.
"I can't say enough about our catcher Dustin, because he pounced on the pitch that got to the wall, and that was a huge play for us. Our goal at the beginning of the season was to go undefeated in district, and I think the Sherman game (11-1 blowout) jump started our team and got us heading in the right direction."
The Wildcat defense continues to shine, and it wasn't more evident than in the sixth, when Riley made a diving stop to his left and threw Donaldson out from his knees, showing his second base counterpart how to play the position and keeping him hitless on the night.
"All of our defensive drills have paid off," Riley said. "We just need to keep hitting in practice until our hands bleed, because we can't buy a hit right now.
"There's mixed emotions right now, because we're putting the ball in play but can't find the holes. We're playing not to lose instead of to win. We're tired of losing, that's for sure."
SSHS JV 9, McKinney North 6
Kyle Taylor had four hits, Scotty Stewart three and Jayden Spencer two, as the Sulphur Springs junior varsity team improved to 4-0 in District 11-4A play with a 9-6 win over McKinney North.
Blake Wells got the win for the Wildcats (10-5), allowing two hits and one run with a walk and four strikeouts in two innings. Jake Brumley gave up four hits and five runs with four strikeouts in four innings of work. Spencer got the save, striking out two in the final inning.
SSHS pounded out 12 hits and scored six runs in the first inning, and Kiffer Davis played solid defense at first base.