District Showdown: Texas High wins District 11-4A crown with victory over Wildcat on Senior Night

SSHS faces North Lamar tonight to decide second place

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

April 27, 2007 - In a showdown Thursday to decide the district championship, Sulphur Springs ace Brittan Diamond was solid. But, Texas High southpaw Josh Turley was two pitches away from being perfect.

Staff Photo by Angela Pitts

Sulphur Springs senior Colby Strain (above) had two highlight catches against Texas High with a diving stop in the second inning and then crashed into the chain link gate chasing a foul ball in the third inning. Strain also went 1-for-3 at the plate.

Turley struck out 15 Wildcats and allowed just two baserunners in a 3-0 Tiger victory at Eagle Stadium that wrapped up the District 11-4A title.

Sulphur Springs had already clinched a playoff berth, due to Paris' loss to Mount Pleasant on Tuesday. Now, the Wildcats (6-3, 15-10) will try to rebound tonight at North Lamar (6-3, 15-9) in a game that will decide second place.

Texas High (7-2) and SSHS went into the game with the same district mark and they played to a 0-0 standstill through three innings. But, in the top of the third, Texas High catcher Josh Eaton - who hit a game-winning, two-run homer in the teams' first meeting - slugged a solo home run to center to break up Diamond's shutout.

It was the only earned run Diamond allowed while fanning seven and allowing eight hits.

Turley, meanwhile, was even sharper. He started strong (striking out five of the first six batters), ended strong (fanning eight of the last nine batters he faced), and wasn't too shabby in the middle.

The only baserunners he allowed were on a two-base error by the center fielder on a long fly ball from junior catcher Josh Dunn to lead off the third, and Colby Strain's two-out single in the fourth that nicked off the glove of the third baseman as he slid down on one knee in the hole between third and short.

Turley used a variety of back door curves, off-speed pitches and high fastballs to confound the Wildcat hitters.

SSHS head coach Jerrod Hammack said they had spent the last two days, after the game was postponed from Tuesday, working on hitting a lefty.

"It's still hard to simulate a guy that is that good, but again, we didn't execute what we were trying to do," he explained. "We didn't try to go to right-center with it. We were taking fastballs and swinging at curveballs in the dirt.

"They were good curveballs, but it was like we were kind of a little shell-shocked after the first few innings, and I don't know know that anyone thought we could hit him, and ultimately we didn't."

The Tigers added a pair of insurance runs in the fifth on a two-base throwing error, a bunt single, a wild pitch and an RBI single by Turley, who had three hits.

Other than the one error, the Wildcats played outstanding defense behind Diamond. Shortstop Jeff Beck turned a double play in the first inning on a two-hopper up the middle, and left fielder Jake North gunned down a runner at home plate on a perfect one-hop throw to Dunn at catcher.

Strain also made a pair of highlight plays at first. In the second inning, he made a diving stop to his right, got up and tossed the ball to Diamond covering first. Then, in the third, Strain made a running catch of a foul ball as he crashed into the chain link gate near the T-High dugout.

But, the way the Wildcats' bats went silent, the outstanding defense was to no avail.

"We just didn't execute and their guy did a great job," Hammack said. "We don't have time to feel sorry for ourselves because we've got to come right back and try to win and get second place."

Tonight's game is set for 7 p.m. at North Lamar. The winner is second place in the district, while the loser will be third. The UIL playoffs begin next week.

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