Big Hitter: Wildcats looking for Strain't work ethic to advance in bi-district playoff series against Nacogdoches

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

May 3, 2007 - Sulphur Springs fans who follow the Wildcats closely probably know that senior Colby Strain leads the team in home runs with five.

They may not know he has more stolen bases than homers.

Strain, the power-hitting first baseman, has six stolen bases to go along with five homers and 17 RBI this year. That, said head coach Jerrod Hammack, is a testament to his athletic ability.

"I find it humorous when I'm in the third base box and the other team's behind me and I hear them tell the pitcher, 'Don't worry about him, he's not going anywhere,' " Hammack said. "Of course, I know he can run pretty well, and especially when they're not taking him seriously, he can steal some bases.

"Colby has been a very pleasant surprise. He hit the ball well for us last year as a DH, but he has really gone beyond expectations. He's done a great job defensively, he moves well for a big guy."

Strain showed his defensive ability last week against Texas High. He dove to his right to snag a sharply-hit one-hopper and threw to the pitcher covering the base. Then, he went into the first-base fence to catch a foul pop.

"Defense is what I do best, I think," Strain said. "I guess I can hit good, but I like my defense a lot. I spend about an hour-and-a-half a day on defense, working on scoops and ground balls. You've got to scoop at first base."

He has also been a mainstay in the middle of the line-up. Strain's hitting over .350 for the season in the No. 4 slot in the line-up.

"At any moment, he can hit the ball out the park - he's got that much power," Hammack said. "As long as he's hitting the ball to right-center, that's his power zone. He's probably the top three in average, leads the team in home runs, and has been a steady force in the clean-up hole.

"Colby's got the most natural power of anybody on our team. He's a natural clean-up hitter. He's really fulfilled his role defensively and offensively."

Strain said his offense and defense go hand-in-hand.

"If I don't hit the ball, and there's going to be games that I don't, then I have to make it up on defense," he said. "If I have a bad defensive game, I've got to make it up with my stick."

The Wildcats (15-11) need his stick in the middle of the order when they take on Nacogdoches in the bi-district playoffs this weekend. Game 1 is scheduled for 7 p.m. today in Hallsville, with Game 2 set for 4 p.m. Friday at Driller Park in Kilgore and Game 3 at 4 p.m. Saturday in Kilgore.

The rainy weather may cause a schedule change, but the series must be decided by Saturday.

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