Poteet squeezes Lady Cats out of the playoffs
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

May 3, 2004 -- McKINNEY -- Following Saturday's playoff game, Sulphur Springs softball coach John McCullough couldn't come up with a whole lot of words to console the Lady Cats. But, then again, he didn't have to.

Mesquite Poteet squeezed out a 1-0 victory over the Lady Cats in the bi-district round of the Class 4A playoffs, ending Sulphur Springs' see-saw season at 21-10-1.

"To be honest, I didn't tell them hardly anything," McCullough said. "I told them, I'm not good at speeches like this. I just told them I was proud of the year they had and the way they always competed. No matter what happened, they always competed hard."

It was a tough loss for the Lady Cats, who battled Poteet to a scoreless tie through five innings, then loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth but were unable to tie the game.

Sulphur Springs senior Hollie Watson and Mesquite Poteet's Heather Fortenberry locked up in a tense pitchers' duel. Watson pitched tremendously, giving up just four hits -- three of them to Fortenberry -- walking three and fanning seven. The one run charged to her was unearned.

"Hollie did a terrific job," McCullough said. "She did everything we could ask her to do."

Fortenberry threw a no-hitter for five innings, broken up by back-to-back bunt singles from Casey Carper and Kristen Cross in the sixth, while walking two and striking out seven.

"I'm proud of the way they competed and got after it, but you're playing Mesquite Poteet and they've got an excellent pitcher in Heather Fortenberry," said Coach McCullough. "You have to give her credit. She did a good job of keeping us off-balance. We hit a few balls hard, but like we've done the past couple of weeks, we hit them right at people."

The difference maker was the sixth inning, when Poteet (19-10-2) scored the lone run of the game and SSHS didn't answer it.

Watson had sat down seven consecutive batters heading into the sixth when Fortenberry reached on her third hit of the game, a single up the middle. With one out, Courtney O'Brien singled to right even though right fielder Crystal Smitherman made a strong throw to first base. That put runners on second and third.

Watson then struck out Sarah Lankford, bringing up Kirbie Buentello, who cued Watson's changeup between short and third. SSHS shortstop Savana Gibby made an excellent stop in the hole, but because the ball was hit slowly, she had to try to make an off-balance throw, which went wide of first base, and Poteet had a 1-0 lead.

"Defensively, we did a great job. We had one error, and that was a tough play. It was in the hole and we had to hurry because the runner had a little bit of speed and had to make the throw off-balance," McCullough said. "Other than that, it was the kind of game you really expected. We knew it would be a one-run game, I just hoped we'd have one more run than they did."

Watson then struck out Tabitha Yanetti to end the sixth inning.

In the bottom of the frame, Carper, who walked in the third but was stranded, pushed a bunt to the left of Fortenberry, who had to dive for the ball to field it. By the time she recovered, Carper slid into first with the Lady Cats' first hit of the game.

Cross then pushed a bunt past the charging infield for another hit. A wild pitch moved both runners up a base. Whitney Gideon then reached on a fielder's choice when Poteet shortstop Jennifer Stottlemyer tried to throw out Carper at third.

That loaded the bases with no outs. Following a strikeout, Gibby drove a 1-2 pitch into medium-deep center field, but Carper was unable to get back to the bag to tag, and when center fielder Whitney Long made a strong, quick throw there was no way McCullough could send her.

Fortenberry then retired the next four batters in order to wrap up the game.

McCullough said the season was full of difficulties, such as injuries, but he was proud of the players for continuing to work hard.

"At different times of the year, we had situations where we were going through struggles, and they never gave up," he said. "As a coach, all you can ask for is for the girls to compete and give everything they've got, and I think they did that."

Notes: Poteet, the runner-up in District 12-4A, advances to the area round, where the Lady Pirates will play Dallas Hillcrest.

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