Wildcats come away with district defeat

By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY | News-Telegram Sports Editor

April 4, 2007 - TEXARKANA - Jerrod Hammack hadn't seen his Sulphur Springs Wildcats play this type of game for a couple of weeks. It would be all right with the coach if he doesn't see it again.

The Wildcats had put together two weeks of crisply-executed baseball before they went to Texas High on Tuesday, but didn't stand out in any facet of the game in a 4-2 loss to the district-leading Tigers.

The Wildcats and Texas High went into the game with identical 3-0 records in District 11-4A, but the Tigers' Josh Eaton hit a two-run homer to left field in the fifth inning to break a 2-2 tie, and that was enough for winning pitcher Slade Heathcott, who gave up just three hits and struck out nine in a complete-game effort.

Sulphur Springs made two errors, which both led to unearned runs, and managed just five base runners.

"We didn't play well in any facet of the game," Hammack said. "The errors that we made, those guys ended up scoring. Baserunning, we made mistakes. Still, we only lost 4-2. We're better than them, I believe, we just did not play like it."

Offensively, the Wildcats did little damage against Heathcott, a southpaw who threw an economical 98 pitches and did not give up an earned run.

Sulphur Springs took a 1-0 lead in the second as Clay Wilks laced a one-out double down the right field line, and Jake North sent him to third with a sharp, opposite-field single. Wilks then scored when Heathcott's pick-off attempt glanced off the first baseman's glove and rolled to the fence.

That allowed North to race all the way to third, but Heathcott got a strikeout and pop out to get out of trouble.

Texas High then tied the team in the bottom of its inning via a lead-off walk to Caleb Gibbs, a sacrifice bunt by Ricardo Pierce which was misplayed and allowed Gibbs to take third, and a sacrifice fly by Patrick Turley.

Texas High then took a 2-1 lead in the third on an infield error and an RBI double by Eaton, who finished 3-for-3 with three RBI. The damage could have been worse, but SSHS shortstop Jeff Beck made a nice play on a chopper up the middle for the final out.

The Wildcats tied the game back up at 2-2 when Kevin Mabe walked with two outs. Beck then lofted a high fly ball to medium left-center. The Texas High outfielder slipped and the ball went off his glove, allowing courtesy runner Chris Thompson to score all the way from first. Beck went to second on the outfield error, then tried to score when a subsequent throw went wild, but Beck was gunned down at the plate.

That tied the game and set the stage for Eaton's blast.

At one point in the game, Heathcott sat down 10 straight Wildcats, striking out six in that stretch.

Mabe, who started for the Wildcats took the loss after giving up four runs, two of them earned, in 4 1/3 innings. He struck out two and walked two. Junior Jeff Beck then came in to settle the down the game and tossed 1 2/3 innings of two-hit ball. He fanned three.

"I thought Jeff competed well. That was probably one bright spot we had, that he came in and competed and held the game where it was," Hammack said. "He's looked sharp the last few outings he's been on the mound, and that's what we need our pitchers to do."

Offensively, he also expected more from his team. The Wildcats hit just four balls out of the infield the whole night.

"Our approach wasn't what it needed to be - you've got to hit a lefty away and go to right-center. The two hard hits we had, from Clay Wilks and Jake North, did that," Hammack said. "But, for the most part, we were hitting the ball to the shortstop for routine plays. It just wasn't a good night at the plate."

The Wildcats (3-1, 12-8) fell into a tie for second place with North Lamar (3-1, 12-7). The two teams face each other at 7 p.m. tomorrow at Eagle Stadium in a game that will end the first round of district.

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