|Wildcats lose to Lindale|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
March 3, 2006 - KILGORE - With a pair of well-groomed pitchers on the mound for Sulphur Springs and Lindale, the opening game of the Oil Belt Classic was played in only 90 minutes.
The Wildcats needed it to last a little longer.
Sulphur Springs got the tying run in scoring position each of the last two innings, but couldn't push either across to extend the game into extra innings as the Wildcats took a 2-1 loss.
Sulphur Springs ace Alex Aguilar matched up against Lindale's No. 1 pitcher, Carson Middleton, and their pitching lines were almost identical. They each gave up seven hits and one earned run while fanning nine. The difference was one unearned one tallied by Lindale, ranked No. 4 in the state by the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association.
SSHS head coach Jarrod Hammack was pleased with how his team competed, but said they will continue to work on "the little things."
"Alex Aguilar pitched well enough to win, no doubt about it. If he throws like that every night, we're going to win the majority of those," Hammack said. "But, their guy on the mound is good, too. He's a draftable player and we're not going to see many more like him.
"But, I thought we took good cuts off him. We just didn't execute when we had men where we needed them. We swung the bats well enough to win up until we got men in scoring position, and then we just didn't get the key hit."
Lindale, which went to the Class 3A, Region II finals last season, scored one run each in the second and third innings, then Aguilar sat down nine of the final 10 batters in order.
Lindale got a run in the second on a lead-off double by Justin Valdez and an RBI single by Aaron Neely. But, with two men on and no outs, Aguilar struck out the side to get out of the jam without further damage.
In the third, the Eagles' Middleton doubled off the right field wall and scored on an infield error to put Lindale up, 2-0.
The Wildcats (2-3) got one run back in the fourth when Scott Stewart doubled deep in the left field gap with two outs, and an infield hit by Jayden Spencer - who had two hits in the game - put runners on first and third. Spencer then purposefully got caught in a rundown, allowing courtesy runner Tyler Lucas to score from third.
It was in the final two innings, though, that the Cats missed their opportunities. In the sixth, Aguilar opened the inning by getting hit by a pitch. Casey McMahan then doubled to right field and Stewart was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out. Middeleton, though, struck out the next two batters to end the inning.
In the seventh, Colby Mills reached on his second single of the game and advanced to second on a wild pitch, but was stranded there as the game ended.
"Lindale was a regional finalist last year and lost to the state champions in the playoffs. They have everybody back, and they may go to Austin in 3A this year," Hammack said. "We're right there with them - we're just as good, no question.
"We've just got to keep our heads up, keep working hard and be confident because we're good enough to remain confident at this point. We're just not doing the little things that we talk about and work on all the time. We're just not there yet, but we're going to get it straight and be ready."
The Wildcats were scheduled to play at 2 p.m. today against Longview Pine Tree at the Pine Tree field. SSHS will then come back at 4:30 p.m. to face Liberty-Eylau.