Wildcats open district tied atop the standings

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

Mar. 24, 2007 - MOUNT PLEASANT - The Sulphur Springs Wildcats are back where they feel they belong.

The Wildcats ended last baseball season atop the district standings, and on Friday they regained a share of the 11-4A lead with a district-opening 6-1 win over Mount Pleasant.

It was one of the most complete games they've played in a while with excellent pitching, solid defense and an offense that took advantage of its opportunities.

Junior righthander Brittan Diamond threw a complete-game two-hitter, giving up no earned runs, striking out six and allowing one walk and three hit batters. He also went 3-for-4 at the plate and scored three times in the lead-off position.

Left fielder Jake North and designated hitter Bill Hood also had a pair of hits, and five different players drove in runs.

It was what SSHS head coach Jerrod Hammack had in mind when he set the rotation to have Diamond start the district season.

"We're going to get a well-pitched game out of Brittan Diamond. He's going to compete and he's going to give you a chance to win," Hammack said. "We played really good defense behind him.

"He's going to strike out several, but he's also going to make them put it in play, so we have to play good defense - and we did."

The Wildcats made just one error, and junior catcher Josh Dunn threw out two would-be base stealers to end the fourth and sixth innings.

Sulphur Springs came away with 10 hits against three Tiger pitchers, stole three bases and was able to advance runners around the bases by hitting behind them.

Diamond started the game with a single to right, then was balked to second by MP starter Brad Dove, who took the loss by allowing five runs in four innings. Ladarius "Cootie" Harrison moved him to third with a sacrifice fly to right field, then Tyler Rhoades drove Diamond home with a sacrifice fly to right.

"Offensively, we got timely hits. Like I told them, you might be 0-for-1 with a man at third, but we're hitting balls and getting them in, whether it be a ground ball out or a fly ball, but we're scoring runs," Hammack said. "That's what it's all about to me - scoring runs. Average is nice, but that's not necessarily what wins ball games.

"I thought we played offensively the kind of ball we needed to to score runs."

Mount Pleasant tied the game at 1-1 in their half of the first when Cole Lathum was hit by a pitch and went to third when Cory Amerson drove a single to left, and the Wildcats' North slipped while fielding the ball. Lathum scored on Webb Fields' grounder to first.

But, that was the only run MP would get. In fact, the Tigers had just two runners advance past first base the final six innings.

The Wildcats, meanwhile, added to their lead. In the third inning, shortstop Jeff Beck walked and came home when Diamond laced a line drive to the right field gap that MP center fielder Jacolby Stewart never saw. Diamond ended up with an RBI triple, then scored on Harrison's single up the middle for a 3-1 lead.

In the fifth, the Wildcats took advantage of a pair of MP errors to plate two more runs. Diamond again led off the inning with a single, and Harrison laid down a sacrifice bunt. But, the MP catcher hurried his throw to get the speedy Harrison and the ball ended up in the dirt, allowing Diamond to take third.

Harrison then stole second, and when the catcher's throw went wide, Diamond scored and Harrison advanced to third, where he scored on Colby Strain's infield grounder.

In the sixth, Sulphur Springs scored in a more conventional way, as North doubled down the left field line and scored on Hood's hump-back liner to center.

Combined with Tuesday's 25-8 blowout of Edgewood, the Wildcats have put together a pair of well-played games after a few weeks of being up-and-down. Hammack attributed it to the team's focus.

"We were focused, we were enthusiastic, kind of like we were against Edgewood. The dugout was into the ball game, and there was a lot of energy here," he explained. "It had that good feel that you knew good things were going to happen, and we made those things happen."

Notes: Texas High defeated North Lamar, 7-6, while Lindale played Paris, but the result was not immediately known. ... North, Strain and Harrison each had a stolen base. ... Neither team had a wild pitch or passed ball.

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