|Wildcats' faith pays off|
|Tyler Clifton | News-Telegram Sports Writer|
April 9, 2004 -- Sulphur Springs set a goal Thursday night to get at least nine hits in its game against Paris, and it never hurts to have a little faith.
The Wildcats got more than that, pounding 11 hits, including five in a four-run second inning to take their first District 11-4A win of the season, 6-3 over PHS in the first of three straight games at Eagle Stadium.
The hit total was almost twice as many as SSHS had in its first four district games combined (six).
Kevin Roberts (3-3) was finally able to pitch with a lead, something he hasn't been able to do his last two starts, and threw six strong innings. He allowed four hits and struck out three. One deceiving statistic was Roberts' six walks, but he wasn't erratic and pitched out of jams with the help of the SSHS defense.
Roberts wasn't feeling well before the game, and SSHS head coach Rahn Smith didn't know if he would last longer than three innings.
"I honestly didn't feel 100 percent coming in," Roberts said. "It was really good to see the guys hit the ball, though, and the breaks finally went our way.
"It was much easier pitching with a lead, and I feel this is a turning point for us heading into the second half of district. I give credit to our defense, because they played well again tonight and continue to get the job done and keep the game close."
Ryan Allison finished 2-for-3, including a two-run double, while the team's leading hitter Logan Pogue went 3-for-4. Zach Adair got the final three outs for his first save of the season, and all but one starter got a hit.
It was a much-needed win for the Wildcats (8-12-1, 1-4), who hope to use it as a springboard for the second half of district play. They continue to hit the ball hard, and Smith said the team played to win tonight instead of not to lose.
"We finally played with some confidence tonight," Smith said. "The kids were aggressive hitting the ball, and we got some clutch pitching out of Kevin.
"I told the kids things would eventually even out, and I was particularly proud of the performance from the bottom of our lineup (Allison and Zack Wilhite). Kevin has been trying to do too much lately, because he hasn't had a lot of support, but he showed what he was capable of doing with a lead."
The team seemed to feed off Jarred Beck's leadoff single in the second inning, as Josh Riley hit a liner to left that rolled under the legs of Jay Hodge and put both runners in scoring position.
Allison got the third straight hit of the inning with his double to right-center and scored on Wilhite's RBI hit. Pogue singled, and Wilhite scored on an errant pickoff attempt by Paris pitcher Sammy Morrone.
"Jarred's hitting gave those of us behind him some confidence," Allison said. "It felt good to hit the ball in the gaps, and we wanted to come out tonight and show we were capable of hitting the ball. We can't stop doing it after just one game.
"We knew coming in we had three straight home games and that we had to win this one if we expected to have any shot at competing for the playoffs."
Paris (5-12-1, 1-4) avoided the shutout in the fifth, as Hodge and Lloyd Gordon drew back-to-back walks that Roberts was unable to pitch around. Morrone helped his own cause with a sacrifice fly to center to cut the lead to 4-1.
The Wildcats got some much-needed insurance in the sixth with some timely two-out hitting. Allison led off with a single, and Peugh got his first hit of the night with a shot to center. Pogue drove home Allison with a liner to right. Sam Smith and Casey McMahan drew walks, with McMahan's free pass scoring Peugh for a 6-1 advantage.
PHS didn't quit, as Gordon walked and scored on Caleb Sikes' double down the left-field line on a perfectly executed hit-and-run play. Sikes moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on Jon Marc Rea's grounder to first, but Adair struck out the final two batters to preserve the win.
Paris left nine runners on base, while the Wildcats stranded eight.