|Denison inches past Lady Cats for second seed|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
April 27, 2004 -- McKINNEY -- Baseball is a game of inches. Frustratingly so for the Sulphur Springs Lady Cats.
Whitney Gideon's bases-loaded line drive with two outs in the bottom of the seventh ended up in the webbing of the glove of leaping Denison shortstop Shayla Moore, preserving a 2-0 win and a No. 2 playoff seeding for Denison.
Gideon, who doubled in the eighth inning of a similar situation against Sherman, missed becoming the hero again by a matter of inches. With good speed on every base, the Lady Cats would have at least tied the game and maybe won it had her hit gotten over Moore's glove. Instead, they fell to 21-9-1 overall and are now the third-place seed out of District 11-4A.
Moore, who made errors on each of the first three balls hit to her, made up for it with three outstanding plays in the field over the last two innings. She went in the hole to throw out Savana Gibby to start the sixth inning, and ran into deep foul territory to catch a pop off the bat of Crystal Smitherman to end that inning.
That helped keep the Lady Cats' toothless at the plate. They managed just two hits -- a bunt single by Kristen Cross in the fifth and Stephanie Kethley's one-out single in the seventh against Denison pitcher Dana Nowlin. She sat down 15 out of 16 batters in the second through sixth innings, and never used more than 10 pitches in an inning to do it.
"We just for some reason waited until the seventh inning to wake up," said SSHS coach John McCullough. "The first inning, we had the bases loaded and had a chance to get some runs in and didn't do it. Then, really, we didn't have another chance until the seventh inning."
In the first, two Moore errors and a walk to Hollie Watson loaded the bases with two outs, but Nowlin one of her five strikeouts to end the inning.
The Lady Jackets already had a 2-0 lead after they pounded out four of their seven hits in the first inning. Nikki Kramer led off the game with a single, followed by a run-scoring single from Moore and an RBI hit from Brittny Horton. That ended up being all they would need.
Watson allowed just three hits after the first inning. She walked three and struck out nine.
While Nowlin cruised through the middle innings, Denison had baserunners in every frame but the sixth. A pair of defensive gems by the Lady Cats helped keep the score close.
In the second, Kramer doubled into the right field gap with two outs, but a textbook relay from Cross to second baseman Ne Ne Hynson to Gideon at third caught the runner. Then, after Lynsey Houghston reached third on a single and two-base error in the fourth, the Lady Cats pulled off a 1-4-2 double play as Watson fielded a bunt, threw to Hynson covering first to get one out, then relayed the ball home to Courtney Aguilar, who tagged out the sliding Houghston.
But, the Lady Cats never got anything going offensively, at least not until the seventh when they loaded the bases on Kethley's single up the middle, a walk to Casey Carper, who battled for 11 pitches before receiving the pass, and a walk to Cross.
"Finally, with two outs in the seventh, they woke up and loaded the bases up, and Whitney Gideon stepped up and hit a line drive. It was just one of those things where she hit it right at somebody," McCullough said. "She hit the ball hard and the shortstop had to make a leaping catch, and unfortunately it wasn't six inches higher or we either win the game or at least tie it.
"We did a good job of playing defense and making relays and getting outs. We just didn't get any hits. We only got two hits, and that's not enough to win."