Upset! Lady Cats fall for second time in district
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

April 9, 2004 -- If the loss to McKinney North last week was a wake-up call for the Sulphur Springs Lady Cats, then Thursday's game with Denison was the equivalent of the snooze alarm. And the Lady Cats overslept.

Denison used two costly throwing errors by SSHS to score four unearned runs in a startling 4-2 victory that ties the two teams for second place in District 11-4A.

The Lady Cats had hoped to make next Friday's game with McKinney North (6-0) a showdown for first place. Instead, they all but relinquished their three-year hold on the district crown.

"This had better get their attention because now we're in a battle just to make the playoffs," said SSHS coach John McCullough. "Now, we're in a tie with Denison for second place and Sherman's right behind us and that's who we play Tuesday. If that doesn't get their attention and their focus, then nothing will. We're in a battle now."

The Lady Cats struggled at the plate against Denison starter Dana Nowlin, getting just five hits -- two each by Melissa McSheffery and Savana Gibby and another by Courtney Aguilar. Though they fanned just three times, the Lady Cats had nine fly ball or pop-up outs.

Still, Sulphur Springs scored enough runs to win if not for the two costly errors. All of Denison's runs were unearned, and that was not the recipe to beat a team which SSHS had shutout 9-0 in the first round of district play.

McSheffery pitched a complete game for the Lady Cats, striking out 12 and getting out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the seventh. She did just about everything possible to win the game, including going 2-for-3 at the plate with a double, triple and two runs.

"Melissa did a great job pitching, and we got just what we want from her. They hit ground balls to us, and we just didn't make the plays," McCullough said. "The score should have been 2-0. When she pitches a game like that we need to win, but they got all of their runs after there should have been three outs."

McSheffery scored the first run of the game in the bottom of the first when she doubled past the center fielder. Courtesy runner Krissy Cotten scored when Gibby lined an RBI single up the middle, the first of her two RBIs in the game.

The score stayed 1-0 until the Lady Cats batted in the fourth. On McSheffery's second time at the plate, she tripled over the right fielder's head and came around on Gibby's smash to left field.

Denison, though, answered in the top of the fifth when Nikki Kramer singled with one out and Tate Neasbitt reached on a two-base throwing error, putting runners on second and third. They both scored on Shayla Moore's single up the middle to tie the game at 2-2. McSheffery fanned the next two batters to get out of the inning without any more damage.

In the bottom of the fifth, it appeared the Lady Cats would answer when Aguilar drove a grounder just inside the first base bag for a single. But, courtesy runner Ne Ne Hynson was thrown out at second after a missed bunt. That was the last baserunner the Lady Cats would have.

Denison broke the tie in the sixth when Christina Shannon reached on a throwing error, Nowlin singled with two outs and they both scored on Kramer's triple to the right field gap.

"We just have to make plays, that's what it boils down to," McCullough said. "We talk about our pride in our defense, and right now we're not playing great defense. We're going to keep working at it and hope to get back to where we need to be.

"Hopefully, we'll focus a little bit better at the plate and do a better job of hitting the ball on the ground and making them make plays, and hopefully get back to where we need to be."

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