Shuffled lineup comes through for Lady Cats
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

April 24, 2004 -- PARIS -- Sulphur Springs coach John McCullough knew his lineup would be shuffled Friday night with the temporary loss of Melissa McSheffery. He just didn't know how much.

Center fielder and lead-off hitter Kristen Cross was hit in the nose with a ball during warm-ups in the second inning, forcing McCullough to make even more changes.

But, it never showed.

With senior Hollie Watson throwing a one-hitter and multiple-hit games from Cross, Whitney Gideon and Stephanie Kethley, the Lady Cats swamped Paris, 7-0, to finish the regular season with a 7-3 district record (21-8-1 overall).

That puts them in a second place tie in District 11-4A with Denison -- a tie that will be broken at 7 p.m. Monday when the two teams meet for the third time this season. Coaches were meeting on Saturday to determine a site.

Watson gave all the credit for the shutout to her defense, which included a spectacular grab up the middle from senior shortstop Savana Gibby in the sixth inning, and a throw-out at first base from right fielder Crystal Smitherman in the fifth.

"Savana did an awesome job, coming from the middle to get that ball, and Crystal took a hit away from that girl. That should have been a hit, a line drive hit, and Crystal came up gunning. It was an great play. Everyone did great tonight on defense.

"And, I tell you, Courtney Aguilar did an awesome job behind the plate. I couldn't ask for a better catcher. Her knees were so achy, and she stuck it out back there and did awesome. "

Watson was pretty good herself. She struck out seven and walked two in going the distance. The only hit came in the third when Paris' Meredith Rhodes grounded a ball through the middle. That loaded the bases with one out, but Watson struck out Paris' No. 4 and 5 hitters, Jennifer Gerber and Jodi Greb, on six pitches.

By that time, the Lady Cats had given her a 6-0 lead. In the first inning, Cross bunted for a single, advanced on Gideon's bunt, went to third on a missed pop-up from Gibby and scored on a throwing error when Watson laid down a sacrifice bunt. Smitherman gave SSHS a 2-0 lead with a long double down the left field line and Kethley drove two more runs in with a looping single to center.

In the second, Cross again reached on a bunt, Gideon singled to left center and they scored on Gibby's line drive hit to left and a long sacrifice fly by Watson.

Their final run came in the fifth when Casey Carper reached on a ball to center and came home on consecutive singles by Cristie Dixon and Gideon. Dixon, who was inserted in the game after Cross' injury, reacted positively, going 1-for-3 with her two outs both being hard-hit balls to center field.

Gideon, who moved from left field to third base, went 3-for-4 with a double. She said the line-up changes helped focus the team.

"The main outlook was to focus as much as we could," she said. "We knew we could beat this team, but the focus had to be there because of the changes. We had good practices, but we had to keep encouraging everybody to do their best. We knew everyone could do their jobs. It was a matter of focus and wanting to win."

McCullough was encouraged by the way the team came out strong against Paris in their Senior Night.

"We played really good defense with girls playing different positions. Everybody who moved to different spots did a great job. That's what we've got to have," McCullough explained. "We have to have athletes playing their spots, no matter what it is and no matter the situation. Right now, we're getting that, and it's very important.

"You kind of get in a routine, but once changes are made, there's not that routine, so you have to make everything more focused and more intense because you haven't been there. Those different changes does make you focus more."

Notes: McSheffery is responding well to treatment and believes she will be available for the Lady Cats' first playoff game, which will be next Friday against either Mesquite Poteet (second place in 12-4A) or Wylie (third place). ...Casey Carper started in right field for the first time this year after being the every-day second baseman. Then, when Cross got hurt, she moved to center.

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