SSHS falls to Liberty Eylau at Pine Tree's Field of Dreams

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

Mar. 2, 2007 - Getting shut down by Liberty-Eylau southpaw Zach Fowler is nothing to be ashamed of - it happened to a lot of teams last year.

Fowler, the MVP of L-E's state championship game in 2006, held Sulphur Springs to just two hits in a masterful 14-strikeout performance that resulted in a 4-0 Leopard win on Thursday.

In the opening game of the Oil Belt Classic, played at Pine Tree's Field of Dreams, Fowler allowed just five baserunners and then picked two of them off.

Sulphur Springs junior Brittan Diamond also had a command performance, allowing just six hits and one earned run in pitching a complete game. Diamond fanned seven, but the Wildcats made three costly errors behind him that led to the first three Leopard runs.

"Both pitchers had excellent stuff," said SSHS head coach Jerrod Hammack. "I told Brittan that if he's throwing like that in district, I'll take it every time because he did not deserve to lose the ball game.

"Their kid threw excellent as well. He's the real deal, and he was tough on us."

L-E put runners on base in each of the first three innings, but Diamond was able to work out of trouble by holding the Leopard hitless in their first eight bats with runners in scoring position.

But in the fifth, an infield throwing error allowed L-E's Cory Cook to reach first and he later scored on another throwing error. SSHS centerfielder Jake North limited the damage when he made a diving catch of a sinking line drive to end the inning.

The error bug popped up again in the sixth when L-E scored two unearned runs on RBI hits by Acie Hollins and Patrick Dukes.

The Leopards' only earned run came in the seventh when Stedmon Dewberry hit a one-out double and Eric Wells tripled him home.

The Wildcats, meanwhile, got a sixth-inning double from Diamond with one out, and then Dalton Abner reached on L-E's only error of the game. But, Abner was picked off first by Fowler, who struck out three of the final four batters.

The Wildcats' other hit was a one-out single by North in the fifth, but he was stranded at third.

"We had some opportunities, but we're just not executing right now," Hammack said. "Pitching was the only thing positive you could say about us today. We're not making routine plays, we're not running the bases properly - we've still got a long way to go."

The loss dropped the Wildcats to 3-2 on the season.

"We're going to get better. We have a better record right now than we had last year at this point, and we know how good last year's team was," Hammack said the district championship squad. "We're going to try to keep getting better. We've got to find the right combinations out there that are going to make plays for us."

The Wildcats return to the diamond today with a noon game against Lindale and a 6 p.m. contest against Pine Tree.

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