Wildcats buckle down to defeat Panthers

By JIMMY ROGERS | News-Telegram Correspondent

April 6, 2007 - Reaching to the bottom of his competitive spirit, Sulphur Springs junior Brittain Diamond struck out the last four batters he faced Thursday night at Eagle Stadium to lead the Wildcats to a 4-3 win over North Lamar.

The victory left the Wildcats in a first-place tie in District 11-4A after the first round. The Cats are now 4-1 in district, the same as Texas High, which lost Thursday to Paris, 7-3.

North Lamar and Paris are tied for third with 3-2 records.

Diamond faced 28 batters, striking out nine, walking one and giving up only one hit. The one hit produced two Panther runs.

Two Wildcat errors kept North Lamar within striking distance.

�We made some mistakes that kept them in the game,� SSHS head coach Jerrod Hammack said.

Three Sulphur Springs runs in the bottom of the first with two out proved to be an advantage that motivated the Cats.

Senior Tyler Rhoades singled to left field after the two batters in front of him grounded out to short. Clean-up hitter Colby Strain drew a walk, and with runners on first and second, senior Clay Wilks singled to drive in Rhoades. Jake North then moved Strain and Wilks home with a double.

A moment of anxiety for the Cats came with the next batter, junior catcher Josh Dunn. A Josh Jordan pitch struck Dunn on the bottom of his batting helmet and lower neck area. Coach Hammack said, “Once Dunn found out he wasn't hurt, he shook it off and got over it quickly.”

Dalton Abner, running for Dunn, and North advanced on a wild pitch. But, with runners on second and third, Jordan struck out the next batter to end the first.

The Cats scored again in the fourth thanks to two Panther errors. Dunn led off the inning with a walk. Two outs later, Diamond singled to center moving Abner, running for Dunn, to second. Both runners advanced on a throwing error by the first baseman as he returned the ball to the pitcher after a pick-off attempt and the Panther infield responded slowly to the error. Abner scored from third when the catcher made a wild throw in an attempt to catch him off base.

North Lamar scored two in the third inning. With one out, Diamond hit left-handed batter shortstop Cody Sellars and then walked Panther right fielder A. J. George. Panther centerfielder Britt Melton grounded out to Strain at first to advance the runners. A single by right fielder Dustin Huff drove in the runs. The inning ended on a pop-up into left field handled easily by North.

In the top of the sixth, North Lamar attempted a rally as a pitch hit the lead-off batter. Panther designated hitter Colton Wade then hit one back to the Diamond on the mound who turned and threw to second. Second baseman Brandon Whittle caught the throw but was not on the bag and runners were safe on the unsuccessful fielder's choice. A wild pitch moved the runners to second and third. Josh Jordan grounded out to short but advanced Wade home.

Diamond then took over, striking out Holbert to end the top of the sixth and then the three batters he faced in the seventh.

The Wildcats (13-8 overall) return to action on Tuesday, when they host the Mount Pleasant Tigers, who beat Lindale on Thursday for their first district victory.

Notes: Diamond had a 17-game hitting streak broken against Texas High, but came back with a hit against North Lamar. He has now hit safely in 18 of the team's 21 games.

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