Wildcats stage another comeback at Wills Point Tournament

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

Feb. 24, 2007 - WILLS POINT - The Sulphur Springs Wildcats had men on base in every inning Friday against Terrell. It just took them a little while to get them all home.

The Wildcats put up four runs in the fifth inning to stage another come-from-behind win, 7-5, in the semifinal round of the Wills Point Invitational Tournament.

In both of their games in the tournament, which also marked their first two games of the year, the Wildcats have staged big, late innings to chalk up victories.

Sulphur Springs will be playing in the tournament's championship game at 7 p.m. Saturday against either Mineola or Wills Point.

While the Wildcats had at least two base runners in every inning, they didn't completely figure out Terrell starter Dustin Jackson until later in the game. But, when they did, the Wildcats had eight of their last 11 men reach base safely against Jackson and reliever B.J. Self.

"I know two innings in a row, we had two men on base just waiting for someone to come up with a key hit and it just didn't happen," said SSHS head coach Jerrod Hammack. "We didn't really look very good, I thought, for much of the game.

"But, I never give up on these guys because I know they're going to figure it out and swing the bats like we're capable of doing, and we did that."

SSHS junior Clay Wilks had a pair of hits, including the game-tying single in the fifth, Brittan Diamond scored twice, and Dalton Abner, Colby Strain, Josh Dunn and Ladarius Harrison each had a run-scoring hit.

Down 4-3 heading into the bottom of the fifth with a chilly north wind and misting rain facing them and a two-hour time limit looming, the Wildcats pushed across four earned runs.

Strain led off the inning with his second walk of the game and went to second on a wild pitch. Wilks then shot a single to left, scoring Strain to tie the game. After walk to Jake North, Dunn stroked an RBI single to right center and Harrison followed with a line drive to center, scoring North.

After Harrison was wild-pitched to third, Jeff Beck drove him home with a long fly ball to left.

Beck also picked up the win on the mound, going the final two innings in relief of starter Brandon Whittle. Beck allowed one run on one hit and one walk with one strikeout. Whittle gave up four runs (two earned) on eight hits. He limited the damage by walking just one.

"Jeff Beck did a good job of coming in and finishing off the game," Hammack said. "Brandon did a decent job, but he wasn't as sharp as he usually is. He usually spots his pitches real well, but he worked behind in the count much of the game. He'll come back and do a better job next time."

SSHS scored once in the first inning on Strain's RBI single that scored Diamond, who reached on an error. Then, in the fourth, the Wildcats scored twice when Beck reach on an error with two outs and Diamond walked. They both came around on Abner's single to right.

The Wildcats also settled down defensively. They were charged with one error, which made both of Terrell's first-inning runs unearned, but turned in a couple of gems as well.

The best defensive play of the game came courtesy of third baseman Tyler Rhoades, who made a diving stop to his left of a sharp grounder hit by Jackson leading off the fifth. Rhoades gloved the ball, got to his feet and threw out Jackson at first.

Rhoades was also involved in a key out in the second inning after Terrell put runners on first and third with none out. The next batter hit a two-hopper to Rhoades who got the runner, Steven Andrade, in a rundown with Dunn at catcher. Beck, playing shortstop, then made the tag out. That helped keep Terrell off the board in that inning.

"Early on, we had two plays that we knew we should have made, and we'll make those as the season goes on because we do stress defense," Hammack said. "But, you're not going to find a much better play than Rhoades made.

"These kids just find a way to do things and make plays."

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