7-8-year old team wins state championship
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

July 21, 2006 - The Sulphur Springs Wildcats broke open a one-run game against Broken Bow with four runs in the fifth inning of the state semifinal game on Thursday.

Turns out, they were just getting started.

The Wildcats outscored Broken Bow 9-4 in the semifinals of the Dixie AA Coach Pitch State Tournament at Coleman Park, then held off Pittsburg by the same 9-4 score in the championship game to become the second consecutive Sulphur Springs team to claim the 7-8-year-old state title.

"The more we play, the better we get," said head coach Wayne Cooper. "The boys turn it up when they have to. When the pressure's on, they stay cool and make the plays when they need to."

In the championship game, the Wildcats put the pressure on Pittsburg - which had beaten Sulphur Springs Wednesday - by putting up the maximum seven runs in the second inning. They added single runs in the third and fifth innings, then squashed Pittsburg uprisings over the final three frames.

The Wildcats started the second inning with singles by Cody Fite, Brandon Foster and Michael Crocker, then received a two-run double by Matthew Calhoun, consecutive RBI doubles by Hunter Powell and Cole Cooper, and run-scoring hits from Logan Merrell and Cason Crawford.

That staked the Wildcats to a 7-0 lead, and the way they normally play defense, the lead seemed safe - even after Pittsburg's Nathan Buck slapped his fourth home run of the tournament leading off the bottom of the second.

"We had one good inning, and that's what we've tried to do during our regular season and All-Stars," Cooper said. "If we can get that one good inning in, we seem to win the game.

"We had that seven-run inning this time, and that did it for us."

The Wildcats buckled down on defense, turning one double play on a line drive caught by shortstop Tanner Ramirez and received an excellent defensive game by center fielder Michael Crocker, who made a running basket catch of one fly ball and also threw out a runner trying to advance to third. Garrett Jones, who tagged out the runner at third, made a lunging catch of a pop fly in the second inning.

Jones also scored in the third inning when he hit a one-out double and came home on Foster's RBI single. In the fifth, Ramirez singled and scored on Jones' single to left.

Pittsburg left five runners on base the last three innings as the Wildcats closed down their threats.

"I knew those guys had some big hitters and they can get on base," Cooper said. "I didn't know we had it until it was done - until that third out."

Wildcats 9, Broken Bow 4

Sulphur Springs scored four runs in the fifth inning to break open a one-run game in the tournament semifinal.  The Wildcats rebounded from their only loss the night before, beating Broken Bow for the second time in the tourney.

Holding a 5-4 lead, the Wildcats used some aggressive base running and timely hitting to put up their four fifth-inning runs. Merrell led off the inning with a single and Crawford followed with a ground-rule double. Ramirez then brought them both home with a single to left, and he scored on a throwing error. Jones then singled and came around on Fite's infield grounder.

The five-run cushion was enough, as Crocker threw out a runner at second base from center field to end Broken Bow's fifth inning. Then, the Wildcats stranded a pair of BB runners in the sixth.

Sulphur Springs struck first, scoring a pair of two-out runs in the first. Crawford singled to left and Ramirez doubled to center. They both came home on consecutive infield grounders by Jones and Fite.

Then, in the third, the Wildcats again scored all their runs with two outs. Crawford reached on a fielder's choice, then Ramirez and Jones each slapped RBI doubles and Foster followed with a run-scoring single.

For Broken Bow, Shawn Rutherford hit a solo home run in the second, and shortstop Caleb Routh came up with one of the most outstanding defensive plays of the tournament. Routh made a diving stop of a grounder in the hole hit by Hunter Powell. Routh caught the ball in his glove while diving toward second base, which he touched for a force out to end the fourth inning.

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