Roberts lives up to his word
Tyler Clifton | News-Telegram Sports Writer

March 12, 2003 -- PARIS -- Kevin Roberts is certainly a man of his word, as the Sulphur Springs senior pitcher vowed to pitch seven innings Friday night.

Not only that, but Roberts is starting to blossom into the staff ace that Sulphur Springs head coach Rahn Smith was hoping he'd become.

Roberts (2-1) allowed only five hits and no earned runs with 10 strikeouts for his second straight complete game, as the Wildcats defeated North Lamar 11-3 to win their third straight and take two of three games against the Panthers this season in an error-plagued affair.

Sam Smith, Ryan Allison and Steven Sappelt each had two hits, and NLHS (4-6) committed an astounding 13 errors. Casey McMahan and Logan Pogue added RBI doubles, while Alex Aguilar got his first varsity hit.

"The guys did a good job of hitting the ball and didn't strike out too much," Smith said. "They put the pressure on their defense, and I hope we can continue to take a step forward.

"I thought going into the season that Kevin could be our go-to guy, and he hit his spots tonight and seems to be getting better each time he goes out there. He's very coachable and wants to learn and make himself better. He's competitive and doesn't hesitate in going up against the best teams."

Allison drove in Sappelt with an RBI hit in the second, as the Panthers had four straight errors that plated three more runs. Sappelt tripled home Colston Copeland and scored on another NLHS miscue for a 7-0 lead after three.

"We kept our heads up and played together tonight," Sappelt said. "I think we're seeing the ball well and it resulted in some great hits."

The Panthers got on the scoreboard in the bottom half, as Ethan Troutt drew a leadoff walk and scored on an error.

Smith, McMahan and Pogue all doubled and scored in a three-run fifth inning. NLHS scored its final two runs in the bottom half on a misplayed ground ball.

Pogue scored on Aguilar's single to short center in the seventh for the final margin.

Sam Smith singled, stole his second base of the season and scored the first run of the game in the first, as the Wildcats (6-5) jumped on NLHS starter Josh Vanderburg early and often.

It was a drastically different result than the two team's meeting in the season opener at the Mount Pleasant Tournament, when Vanderburg shut down SSHS en route to a 10-0 win. The Wildcats won the second meeting 6-3, and there are several factors that could be attributed to their turnaround.

The first is the team's aggressiveness at the plate, as SSHS isn't striking out as much as it was early in the season, and many players feel first-game jitters had a lot to do with their poor performance.

The second is defense, and although the Wildcats committed three errors against the Panthers, it's nothing the team can't iron out in practice with repetitions.

The third, and perhaps most important, is the pitching of Roberts, who has allowed only five runs in his last two games and struck out more batters Friday night than he had combined after his first three starts. He had many NLHS hitters out on their front foot, as he had pinpoint control of his off-speed pitches. The senior is gaining confidence as the district season looms in less than two weeks.

"I felt comfortable with my curveball tonight, and my change-up was working really well also," Roberts said. "This was the best outing I've had all year, and I think it's because my preparation was good. The defense played well behind me, and that's all I can ask for. You have to give credit to them and to our offense for putting the bat on the ball and finding the holes."

Notes: North Lamar is coached by former Major League pitcher Scott Scudder, who played for Cincinnati and Cleveland and won 21 career games, including one for the 1990 World Series Reds team.

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