District 11-4A baseball will have different look as season opens today

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

Mar. 23, 2007 - No one knows yet how the District 11-4A baseball standings will look, but the way the teams look will definitely be different.

That's because only a handful of All-District players return to the six teams as they prepare for the 11-4A openers tonight.

Only six players who were named First Team or Second Team All-District return from last season. Sulphur Springs has two, Second-Teamers Tyler Rhoades and Jake North.

Sulphur Springs (9-6) will travel to Mount Pleasant at 7 p.m. tonight, while Texas High (9-6) goes to North Lamar, and Lindale (12-7) visits Paris.

SSHS, the defending district champions, will send junior Brittan Diamond (2-2, 2.04 ERA) to the mound in the opener. The plan for head coach Jerrod Hammack is to alternate Diamond and Kevin Mabe (3-1, 1.52) in the 10 district starts.

Brandon Whittle and Jeff Beck are his two most immediate options as relievers.

"We seem to play pretty well when Brittan and Kevin are on the mound, and that's who will be our district starters," Hammack said. "I feel pretty good about sending them out every Tuesday and Friday."

As a team, the Wildcats are hitting a robust .320, helped out by Tuesday's 25-run outburst against Edgewood. In that game, Sulphur Springs hit four home runs, two of them by Colby Strain, who upped his team-leading total to four.

Hammack said the infield is likely set, but the outfield was still in flux going into Tuesday's game. Ladarius "Cootie" Harrison got the start in center field and made a pair of nice running catches. He also knocked in three runs and is batting over .400 for the season.

If there is one area Hammack wants the Wildcats to improve on it's consistency. They have looked great one day, then below average the next. He attributes part of that to so many players who have not been in a varsity contest before.

But, the learning curve is narrowing because mistakes are more magnified once district starts.

"There are still a lot of things we have to work on. We've got to be more consistent in all aspects," Hammack said. "We can't run hot-and-cold like we have at times this season. If we do, we'll have a hard time winning in district."

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