Wildcats thump Lindale at Oil Belt Classic

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

Mar. 3, 2006 - LONGVIEW - Too bad this one doesn't count in the district standings.

Sulphur Springs got a complete-game six-hitter from pitcher Brandon Whittle and three RBI each from Tyler Rhoades and Ladarius Harrison to beat Lindale, 11-3, in pool play of the Oil Belt Classic on Friday.

The two teams will meet twice again this season in District 16-4A.

On Friday, the Wildcats had success against Lindale pitchers Justin Valdez and Nathan Simmons, wracking up nine hits and eight bases-on-balls. After fanning 14 times against Liberty-Eylau's Zach Fowler on Thursday, the Wildcats didn't strike out at all against Lindale pitching.

The Wildcats went 5-for-15 with runners in scoring position. Still, SSHS head coach Jerrod Hammack said he expects his squad to hit the ball better as the season progresses.

"Our timing is still an issue. We're still not able to wait and see the ball deep and hit the ball to the gaps," Hammack said. "We're still pull-oriented, still. We've got to get better, and I guess that's going to be a season-long goal.

"When you score 11 runs, you can't be displeased, but at the same time, we can do better."

The Wildcats' big hits were Rhoades' three-run triple in the fourth inning that staked them to a 7-0 lead, and Harrison's two-run single in the sixth that put the game out of reach after Lindale had plated three runs the previous inning.

Harrison and Kevin Mabe each had a pair of hits and Mabe also scored a team-high three runs.

That, combined with Whittle's pitching, were enough. Whittle allowed at least two baserunners in every inning but the first two, but worked out of each jam except for the fifth. He ended the game with six strikeouts, six hits and three earned runs.

"As long as Brandon works ahead in the count, he's really effective," Hammack said. "There in an inning or two, he worked behind, and when you work behind then you've got to bring it in there, and they were able to hit him a couple of innings.

"He did a good job. We needed a game out of him. I was going to pull him in the seventh and let somebody else finish, but when a kid comes to me and his arm feels OK, I like that they want to finish something they started. That's what he wanted to do, and he went out there and got two strikeouts in the last inning."

In the fifth, Lindale used four hits to score all three runs. Valdez had a two-run single and Drew Cole added a sacrifice fly.

By that time, the Wildcats had a 7-0 lead.

Sulphur Springs drew first blood in the bottom of the first when Mabe singled with one out. Rhoades reached on a fielder's choice and scored when Colby Strain's grounder was thrown away by the third baseman. Strain came around on Harrison's single over the infield grass for a 2-0 advantage.

In the third, Mabe doubled to lead off the game and scored when Clay Wilks' grounder was thrown away again by the third baseman.

Then, the Wildcats put up four runs in the fourth. Chris Thompson opened the inning with a single and was forced by Josh Dunn. Jeff Beck and Mabe both walked to load the bases with two outs. Then, Rhoades hit the first pitch into the right field gap for a triple, scoring all three runners. Rhoades then came home when the throw to third base went to the fence.

In the fifth, Dunn walked with one out and courtesy runner Jake North stole second and scored on Diamond's line drive to left.

In the sixth, Wilks had an RBI double, scoring Strain, and Harrison rapped a two-run single to left.

Notes: The Wildcats lost the nightcap of their two pool games on Friday, 3-2, to Longview Pine Tree. A complete summary, along with Saturday's game, will be in Monday's edition.

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