Texas High takes district 12-4A softball championship
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

April 22, 2005 - Fans expecting to see a pitcher's duel Thursday night between Sulphur Springs and the Texas High Lady Tigers were disappointed. Those who went to see a whale of a softball game, weren't.

Both teams slapped the ball all around Lady Cat Park, resulting in a combined 29 hits and eight extra-base knocks before Texas High was able to finally corral a 13-9 victory that wrapped up the District 12-4A championship.

Sulphur Springs (16-8-2 overall, 7-2 in district) secured the runner-up spot in 12-4A by virtue of Paris's 2-1 win over North Lamar. The Lady Cats will now travel to North Lamar at 6:30 p.m. today for the regular season finale.

North Lamar (17-12, 5-4) must win or hope Paris (15-12, 4-5) loses to Greenville in order for NL to secure the third and final playoff berth. If SSHS and Paris both win, there will be playoff between NL and Paris for third place.

Texas High, meanwhile clinched the district title with an 8-1 record.

It looked at first like the game would be a cake walk for the Lady Tigers, whose first five batters of the game all reached safely and scored. Sulphur Springs, though, answered with a seven-run third inning to take the lead, only to see TH's Victoria Stewart clout a three-run homer in the fourth as Texas High ran off eight unanswered runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.

Texas High had 14 hits off of SSHS starter Hailey Watson and reliever Tanna Lampp, while SSHS produced a season-high 15 hits off of Kelsey Harrington, who threw 131 pitches.

Texas High's Briauna Birl went 3-for-5 and scored three runs, while Miracle Thurston, Harrington and Stewart all had a pair of hits.

For Sulphur Springs, lead-off hitter Casey Carper, Watson and Stephanie Kethley all went 3-for-5, including a pair of doubles by Kethley. Tara Gibby added a pair of singles. Each team committed four errors.

"The girls did a great job of competing at the plate, and that's all you can say," said SSHS head coach John McCullough. "It was two good teams playing each other, and both teams hit the ball. They made a few more plays defensively than we did. We hadn't been making any errors, but part of that was they hit the ball hard, and when you hit the ball hard, it's harder to make some plays.

"I was very proud of the girls for the way they battled back and took the lead."

Texas High's Birl set the tone for the game as she drove a 1-2 pitch into the right field gap for a lead-off triple. That was followed by singles from Thurston and Harrington, a walk to Monica Choate and then RBI from Stewart, Kayla Smith and Samantha Deramcy as Texas High sent 10 batters to the plate in the first inning and took a 5-0 lead.

For the first four innings, Watson would give way to Lampp when the middle of the Texas High order came up. McCullough was looking to keep them off-balance by seeing a different pitcher.

"We were trying to throw their No. 4 and 5 hitters some off-speed stuff. In the first game, they had five hits and were hitting really well. We tried to mess their timing up with some off-speed stuff, and to their credit they did a good job of hitting," McCullough said.

Down 5-0, the Lady Cats scratched for a run in the bottom of the first. Ne-Ne Hyson reached on a throwing error, then Kethley lined a single up the middle and Watson brought Hynson home with another single.

The Lady Cats then exploded in the third, sending 11 batters to the plate and putting up seven runs.

"I told them, 'Let's get one run back at a time,' and we got one in the first," McCullough said. "Then, when we didn't get another in the second, they came back and put up seven in the third."

The inning started with consecutive singles by Watson and Nichole Fender. After a sacrifice by Brittany Moore, Betsy Blount reached on a fielder's choice, compounded by a throwing error that brought in Christina Patchen, who was running for Watson, and Fender. Lampp then doubled to left, followed by RBI singles from Gibby and Carper. A walk to Hynson loaded the bases for Kethley, who smashed a three-run double to the right field gap to give the Lady Cats an 8-5 lead.

Texas High came right back, though, as Stewart clubbed a two-out, three-run homer to left to tie the game at 8-8. Texas High then batted around again in the fifth to put up four more runs, and added an additional run in the sixth.

Sulphur Springs got one more run in the bottom of the sixth when Kaneisha Johnson came off the bench and tripled past the right fielder. She scored on a wild pitch.

Sulphur Springs had at least one baserunner in every inning, including the seventh as Kethley doubled with two outs.

"I told the girls I was proud of them because after Texas High jumped on us and scored five in the first inning, they very easily could have quit," McCullough said. "I was proud of the way they fought back. Now, we just have to get ready for North Lamar."

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