Cats give up big fifth inning in loss to Tigers

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

April 11, 2007 - The Sulphur Springs Wildcats learned a hard lesson on Tuesday - you can't take a game off in district.

The Wildcats opened the second half of the District 11-4A schedule on a sour note, falling 8-5 to Mount Pleasant at Eagle Stadium.

The fifth-place Tigers (2-4) erased a 3-1 deficit with a seven-run fifth inning capped by a grand slam by Jacolby Stewart to drop the Wildcats (4-2) out of a first-place tie they had shared with Texas High.

The Wildcats committed four errors, including two in the pivotal fifth inning in which the first seven Mount Pleasant batters all reached base successfully and scored. Offensively, Sulphur Springs left five runners stranded in scoring position.

Sulphur Springs had beaten Mount Pleasant in the opening round of district in a crisply played game. They couldn't duplicate the effort on their home field.

�Mount Pleasant came ready to play Sulphur Springs, but Sulphur Springs didn't come ready to play Mount Pleasant,� said SSHS head coach Jerrod Hammack. �We talk to them all the time that you can't take a day off in district. If you do, you get beat.�

Despite the Wildcats' woes, it appeared through the first half of the game that they would do enough to sweep the Tigers in the season series. SSHS starting pitcher Kevin Mabe fairly breezed through the first four innings, giving up just three hits though one of them was a solo home run by Cory Amerson.

The Wildcats, meanwhile, scored three runs, all of them coming home via wild pitches by Mount Pleasant starter Brad Dove.

In the second inning, SSHS senior Clay Wilks led off with a walk and Jake North and Josh Dunn both reached on sacrifice bunts they turned into singles. Two wild pitches plated Wilks and North, while Dunn was left stranded at third.

Then in the fourth, Wilks - who reached base in all four plate appearances with three walks and a hit – slammed a triple to the right field corner and later scored on another wild pitch. That staked the Wildcats to a 3-1 lead.

Then came the fifth inning.

Sulphur Springs made two errors on Mount Pleasant sacrifice bunts, setting the stage for a two-run single by Jeramy Cochran, a run-scoring single by Amerson, then Stewart's grand slam over the left field fence off reliever Jeff Beck.

Beck finished off the game by retiring nine of the final 12 batters he faced.

But, the hole was too big for the Wildcats' offense to dig out of.

In the sixth inning, Sulphur Springs added two more runs and appeared poised to have a big inning, but one of several curious calls by the umpiring crew short-circuited the rally. The inning started when Dunn doubled to the right field gap and came in on Dalton Abner's double to center. Beck then reached on a wild pitch third strike and Brittan Diamond drove in Abner on an infield grounder misplayed by Mount Pleasant.

That put two runners on with one out, but when Tyler Rhoades hit a chopper to short, the umpire called a double play when Diamond slid hard into second base. That ended the inning and the Wildcats' scoring hopes.

Amerson came on to pitch for Mount Pleasant in the fourth inning and picked up the win by going 3 2/3 innings, allowing three hits and two earned runs while fanning six.

Mabe took the loss, allowing six runs, four earned, on six hits with five strikeouts. Beck allowed two earned runs in three innings.

Sulphur Springs had a couple of nice defensive plays. In the third, Beck at shortstop backhanded a ball hit in the hole by Cochran. He made a strong throw to first, which was scooped by Colby Strain to get the runner.

Notes: Mount Pleasant's Stewart was involved in another disputed call at the plate. He tried to score from second on a ball hit off Strain's glove at first. Strain tracked the ball down and threw to Dunn at home. Stewart, though, knocked the ball out of Dunn's mitt without sliding and was called out by the home plate umpire. ... The Wildcats travel to Lindale on Friday to play the last-place Eagles. First pitch is set for 7 p.m.

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