|Wildcats clinch playoff spot even with loss to Texas High|
|Joseph Elerson | News-Telegram Sports Writer|
April 27, 2005 - The Sulphur Springs Wildcats clinched a Class 4A playoff spot Tuesday night but needed some help from the Paris Wildcats after dropping their Senior Night game against Texas High 4-2 at Eagle Stadium.
Paris defeated cross-town rival North Lamar, 4-3, to give second-place Sulphur Springs a two-game lead over fourth-place North Lamar with one game to play as Sulphur Springs (16-8-1 overall, 6-3 in district) meets North Lamar in Paris Friday night in the regular season finale.
"We have to go in and be focused and be into the game from the very start," SSHS coach Rahn Smith. "We need to get a couple of runs in the first couple of innings and get things going.
"We need to play good defense and have good pitching like I thought we had tonight, and we need to do what it takes offensively to get the runs in at the plate."
If the Wildcats lose Friday and Texas High (5-4) beats Mount Pleasant, the Tigers will take second place due to the tie-breaker situation as Texas High beat SSHS both games during the regular season.
Texas High jumped out early on starting pitcher Zach Adair as Josh Gill smacked a double in the first inning, went to third on a passed ball, and then scored on an RBI single by Justin Coats for a 1-0 lead.
The Wildcats could not get anything going offensively off of Tigers starter Josh Gill, who pitched a complete game two-hitter with three walks, two hit batters (Josh Riley both times) and two strikeouts in picking up the win. He also went 1-for-2 with two runs scored at the plate.
"We had some bad luck tonight because we hit a lot of hard balls right at people, and I don't think anybody in our district should hold us to only two runs in a game," Smith said. "Their pitcher did a good job tonight because he was able to keep us off stride throughout the ball game."
One area of concern Smith had was Texas High being able to get its lead-off batter on base in all but two innings, and Texas High stole six bases.
"We just let their lead-off runners on way too much because I think he got on all but two innings in the whole game," the coach said. "We know what we have got to correct. We still control our own destiny, and we need to just get ready for the game on Friday against North Lamar."
Texas High scored two more runs in the top of the third inning as Jeffery Meadows and Gill got on with back-to-back walks, Justin Coats flied out to Jake Broumley, and then E.J. Rhone had a bases clearing two-run double for a 3-0 lead.
Sulphur Springs cut the deficit to 3-1 in the bottom of the third inning when Scott Stewart drove in Casey McMahan from third with an RBI single.
Defensively, the Wildcats were able to throw out three runners at the plate in the third, fifth and sixth innings, and Smith was impressed with the defensive effort of his team throughout the contest.
"I thought we played well defensively, and Blake (Wells) did not pitch a bad game for us in relief," Smith said.
Texas High scored their final run in the top of the fourth inning as Garrett Larsen scored on an RBI groundout by Chris Castle for the 4-1 lead.
Sulphur Springs did get one run back late in the game as Alex Aguilar, who was the courtesy runner for Stewart who walked, scored from second on a throwing error by Coats for the 4-2 final.
Stewart went 1-for-2 while teammate Casey McMahan went 1-for-3 with a run scored.
Adair went 4 1/3 innings giving up four runs on four hits, while striking out four and walking four in the game.
Texas High was led by Rhone and Larsen who both went 2-for-3, while Coats and Kyle Hawkins were 1-for-3.
"We were able to put the ball in play, but we have got to find a way to get it done offensively because we are a better offensive team than we played tonight," Smith said. "We just didn't do well offensively tonight with runners in scoring position."