|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
April 14, 2004 -- Tears were shed Tuesday for the second straight game at Lady Cat Park. This time, it was a good thing.
Playing for the first time since their shocking loss to Denison, the Lady Cats capped a three-run eighth inning when Whitney Gideon drove a two-strike, two-out pitch over the left fielder's head for a walk-off RBI double and a 6-5 win.
The Lady Cats won the game in the extra inning after Sherman scored three times in the fifth and sixth innings to tie the game at 3-3. The Lady Bearcats (12-9 overall, 2-5 in district) then pushed across two runs in the top of the eighth to send Sulphur Springs (19-7-1, 5-2) to the brink of a two-game district losing streak.
But, the Lady Cats turned it around in the bottom of the inning, thanks to a determined bit of hitting. The Lady Cats had four hits with two strikes in the inning.
"They don't come easy, but that's OK," said SSHS head coach John McCullough. "The girls competed, and that's what we'd talked about since last Thursday -- that we've got to get back that drive and that desire and refuse to lose. The score is 5-3 and it's the bottom of the eighth inning, and they've just scored their two runs to take the lead.
"I just told them that now's the time to prove it. Now's the time to refuse to lose. They stepped up there and had four two-strike hits. That's competing."
Senior Crystal Smitherman led off the eighth with a full-count double to the left center wall, and went to third on Hollie Watson's hard single up the middle. With one out, two players came off the bench to provide crucial roles.
Ne Ne Hynson, moved up to varsity after the JV season was over, went into the game to run for Watson, and junior Stephanie Kethley stepped to the plate as a pinch-hitter. Kethley took Sherman pitcher Lissette McCollum nine pitches deep before hitting a hard grounder to shortstop Susan Ogden's backhand. Ogden threw to second, but Hynson used her speed to slide in ahead of the throw as a run scored to close the gap to 5-4.
Casey Carper then chopped a grounder to third, but Hynson again beat the fielder to the bag to load the bases with one out. Lead-off hitter Kristen Cross launched a sacrifice fly to right field to drive in Hynson with the tying run. Then, it was time for Gideon's heroics.
"It felt good. I was just looking to hit the ball," Gideon said. "I knew I had to do it right then and there. The pressure was off, though, because we had one more inning because we were tied, and everybody was pumped up. I knew if I didn't do it, somebody else would, but I'm glad I did. Very glad."
So was McCullough, who had talked to the team about responding in a positive way after losing two of their previous three games. Even when Sherman took the extra-inning lead, he said the Lady Cats were determined to win.
"They came in and they were up. They wanted to get it done and they did," he explained. "I didn't see any down faces. They came in and said, 'Let's do it, and they did.'
"If this doesn't get it turned around, nothing will. They're fired up, and they're already ready to play again Friday."
The Lady Cats took a 3-0 lead after three innings. In the second, Lacey Temples pushed a two-out bunt back to the pitcher, but in her haste McCullum threw the ball to right field, allowing Temples to reach third. Carper then slapped a ball through the right side for an RBI single and a 1-0 lead.
In the third, Gideon singled down the left field line to open the inning, then Savana Gibby continued her torrid hitting streak with a smash to center. Smitherman moved them over with a sacrifice bunt, and Watson brought both runners home with a two-run single up the middle.
Gibby went 3-for-4 in the game and has now reached base at least twice in four consecutive games. Over that span, she is 8-for-12 with three walks and four RBIs.
Watson and Gideon also had two hits apiece, and Watson picked up the victory on the mound to improve her record to 11-2-1. She gave up seven hits, three earned runs while striking out seven. Sulphur Springs had 11 hits overall and just three strikeouts.
Defensively, catcher Courtney Aguilar jumped on a bunt attempt in the top of the seventh to nab the runner at first to head-off a potential threat, and Watson knocked down two balls hit right back at her, though she also took a line drive off her pitching hand in the sixth inning.
Sherman's middle-of-the-order hitters Odgen and Lauren Rome combined to go 4-for-6 with four runs scored, and the Lady Cats helped them out by committing five errors, accounting for two unearned runs.
But, they found a way to win, which was the most important thing, Gideon said.
"Lately, we'd been getting down on ourselves, but I think everybody pretty much kept their heads up tonight," she said. "Everybody was picking everybody else up in the dugout. I think the mood was still up. We just had to get hits to help it a little bit."