Wildcats loaded with experience and new head coach

Feb. 21, 2006 - With 13 seniors and a brand new head coach in Jerrod Hammack on the baseball team, things are definitely looking up for the Sulphur Springs Wildcats.

Hammack brings eight years of coaching experience and was head coach at Whitehouse for the past five seasons and will take on a bi-district playoff team that lost to Mesquite Poteet last season under former coach Rahn Smith.

"We have a lot of talent back and a lot of experience from a playoff team that went for the first time in three or four years and we are a very senior-oriented team," said Hammack. "This team is definitely capable of a district championship and moving on beyond that, and I am more than excited about that. We have looked good in the scrimmages we have had so far."

With returning players in Offensive MVP and All-State second baseman Josh Riley, Player of the Year in Alex Aguilar, Newcomer of the Year in Colby Mills, Second Team pitcher in Blake Wells, Second Team infielder in Casey McMahan, Second Team catcher in Scott Stewart and Honorable Mention infielder in Jake Broumley, Hammack said this year's team will be a strong contender.

"I have had some talented guys and I have had three guys drafted from my old school but there is no question this team up and down the lineup talent-wise will be the best I have ever had," the coach said.

With the return of Aguilar as the No. 1 pitcher for the Wildcats, a battle is currently playing out for the No. 2 spot as Broumley, Chance Massey, Wells, Jayden Spencer and Kiffer Davis are working in the rotation during the scrimmages. Aguilar went 9-1 with a 2.75 ERA with 82 strikeouts in 77.1 innings last year.

Hammack said Wells, who went 5-3 with six saves and a 2.56 ERA in 38.2 innings, was mainly used as a closer last year and he wants to see if a starting role is a possibility.

"I want to see if Blake can assume a starting role and go five innings and if he can he may be a possibility for the No. 2, and if not then he can still close," the coach said.

Another position Hammack is watching during the scrimmages is at first base after the graduation of Kason Scroggins and three candidates have impressed him.

"We have three candidates and I feel very good about all three," he said. "Junior Tyler Rhoades may be the front-runner because of his athleticism, Davis is another player who is smart and has a love for the game, and then maybe you have a wild-card in a kid named Colby Strain. He (Strain) is a phenomenal hitter and he swings the bat very well and plays pretty good defense. He may be a designated hitter or play first."

Riley is a player Hammack said will be a top player in District 12-4A and will be one of the leaders for the Wildcats after hitting .486 last year with 33 RBI, 10 stolen bases, 23 doubles and three home runs.

"He is very capable of batting .500 this year and he has great bat speed and is a great hitter. He is a guy that will definitely be able to play at the next level and he is a very good second baseman and he can play short," Hammack said. "A guy that swings the bat like that is a great commodity and kids respect him and he is one of the team leaders."

Sulphur Springs opens up the season at 3 p.m. Thursday in the first round of the Wills Point Tournament against Mineola in what turned into a four-team tournament with Wills Point, Dallas A. Maceo Smith, Sulphur Springs and Mineola.

"We are very capable of winning that tournament and in my mind we will be the favorite to win the tournament," the coach said. "We will open with Mineola and will play all four teams in the tournament."

After finishing the season at 17-10-1 last year and runner-up to Paris, Hammack said district play will be a battle every single night, but their goal is high for the season.

"It is a very competitive district and I am familiar with this district. Our goal is to win the district title and I would suggest we are the favorite," he said. "The talent is there and the team camaraderie is there for us this season to win the title.

"I think this team has all of the elements in terms of pitching, hitting and defense, and if we can stay together and keep improving, this season could be really good."

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