Second place slips away from Wildcats in season finale

By JOSEPH ELERSON | News-Telegram Sports Writer

April 28, 2007 - PARIS - Needing a win to finish in second place in District 11-4A, the Sulphur Springs Wildcats wrapped up the district season with an 8-3 loss to North Lamar at Pos Long Field Friday night.

With the loss, Sulphur Springs ended the regular season on a two-game losing streak and in third place and will face Nacogdoches in the bi-district round of the playoffs next weekend. SSHS head coach Jerrod Hammack said the details are still being worked out, but the series will most likely be played in Kilgore.

"We have to go back to playing the way we did in the first round of district and maybe through the first eight games really," Hammack said. "We were 6-2 and playing pretty well and we've got to go back to doing that. Really what has hurt us recently is offensive, and we are not doing a bad job on defense. We need to get back to doing that and then we will be all right."

North Lamar jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on one of five extra base hits off pitchers Kevin Mabe and Jeff Beck as Dustin Huff led off the inning with a double. With one out, Justin Miller then smacked a double to the left-center field wall scoring Huff from third.

But the Wildcats (15-11) found their offense in the top of the second inning as with one out, Clay Wilks reached on a single. Jake North then laid down a sacrifice bunt but reached on a throwing error by NL pitcher Britt Melton as he threw wide of first.

Mabe then slugged a two-out, bases-clearing single to right field to give SSHS the 2-1 lead. Mabe finished 1-for-2 with two RBI at the plate and went 4 1/3 innings on the mound, giving up six runs on nine hits with three walks and two strikeouts.

For the second straight night, the Wildcats faced a lefty and Hammack said they had a little better performance against Melton than against Texas High's Josh Turley on Thursday.

"This was two lefties in a row we have faced and we did better against this lefty tonight than we did Thursday night," Hammack said. "We hit a few the other way and we still had a few pulled, ground ball outs and that is what a lefty wants you to do. "

NL tied the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the fourth inning on a two-out double by Jonathan Huff and then took control of the game in the bottom of the fifth inning.

The Panthers scored six runs on six hits in the inning off Mabe and Beck - who came in with one out in the inning and gave up two runs on two hits with three walks and one strikeout in 1 2/3 innings.

"We are trying to work both sides of the plate and mix in some changeups," the coach said. "In that big inning, Kevin had a problem with his curveball and his changeup and he was having to throw fastballs. They were sitting on them and hitting them really hard."

Mabe was able to get out of a jam in the bottom of the third inning after a triple by Melton, he gave up a walk and a stolen base to Miller and then struckout Josh Jordan and forced a groundout to John Faulkner to end the threat.

SSHS capped off its scoring in the top of the fifth inning with a bases-loaded walk to North scoring Tyler Rhoades from third for the 3-2 lead.

"We are not playing the kind of baseball that got us to this point right now," the coach said. "We left many men on base and you can't keep squandering opportunities like that against a good team. We never got the big hit with runners in scoring position to put them away early. They stayed in the game and got their big inning and we did not get ours tonight.

Hammack said with the third place finish, the Wildcats are happy to be back in the playoffs and look to get past the bi-district round this season after being ousted by Justin Northwest in the second round of last year's playoffs.

"They are down in the dumps because we went from tied for first place to finishing in third, and we are in the playoffs," Hammack said. "That is something to be happy about, but not satisfied. We have to go back to work and get this thing rolling in the right direction and try and win a playoff series."

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