Wildcats win Game 1 of bi-district series over Nacogdoches

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

May 5, 2007 - NACOGDOCHES - Sulphur Springs coach Jerrod Hammack shuffled the Wildcats' line-up on Friday, and the new batting order dealt the biggest win of the season.

The Wildcats handed Nacogdoches pitcher Cody Lock his first loss of the season with a 6-1 victory in Game 1 of the bi-district series at Dragon Field.

Game 2 is set for 4 p.m. today at Eagle Stadium, with Game 3 to follow, if necessary. The winner will advance to face McKinney North next week in the area round.

Sulphur Springs broke open a scoreless game with four runs in the fifth inning, then added single runs in the final two frames. In the revamped line-up, the bottom three in the order scored four runs, and the top four each drove in a run.

"I thought guys came up when they were supposed to be up and got big hits," Hammack said. "That's something we haven't been able to do lately, get big hits with men on base, and we did that tonight."

The Wildcats also received a tremendous pitching performance from junior Brittan Diamond, who scattered six hits, didn't walk a batter and struck out five. The only run charged to him was unearned.

He and Lock controlled the game until the fifth inning. In the top of the frame, SSHS catcher Josh Dunn broke up Lock's no-hit bid with an infield hit to the hole at short. Dunn went 3-for-4 with two runs scored, an RBI and a double.

Jake North then was hit by a pitch for the second time in the game before Ladarius "Cootie" Harrison loaded the bases with a perfect bunt toward third in which the infield couldn't make a play at any base.

Then, with one out, Dalton Abner drove in one run with a chopper up the middle, which the shortstop fielded. Abner, though, was safe at first and North scored from second when the shortstop's throw bounced past first.

Diamond then hammered a double to right-center, driving in Harrison, though Abner was cut down at the plate trying to score. Colby Strain then plated Diamond with a looping single to the right field gap to make the score 4-0.

"We hit the ball well early, but we didn't have a hit through four innings, and that was kind of frustrating because we're hitting the ball hard and making really good plays on defense," Hammack said. "I knew we would end up getting to him eventually if we kept hitting it hard, and we were able to."

Those four runs were all the breathing room Diamond needed on the mound, though he was backed up by several outstanding defensive plays, including an exceptional relay throw in the bottom of the fifth inning that helped deflate the Dragons.

Nacogdoches' Stephen Canty, who hit four home runs in his last two games, doubled to left-center with one out. Then, Brady Colby launched a high fly to left field that North tracked and tried to make a leaping catch at the wall. The ball, though, hit above his glove and bounded back toward the infield.

North ran it down and made an excellent throw to Tyler Rhoades, who turned it and gunned the ball to Dunn, who blocked the plate with his left leg and applied the tag on Canty for the second out.

Dunn helped get another run in the top of the sixth when he singled up the middle. Courtesy runner Koby Ivey took second on a wild pitch and came home on Jeff Beck's sharp single to left to make the score 5-0.

Nacogdoches was able to get one run back in the sixth when Justin McAnich reached on an infield error and came home on Cade Lunsford's two-out single.

The Wildcats, though, matched that run in the top of the seventh. Clay Wilks drew his second walk of the game and scored on Dunn's RBI double to the left field gap to set the final score at 6-1.

Both teams played excellent defense. The Wildcats were able to turn a 6-4-3 double play in the first inning when Beck caught a two-hopper up the middle and second baseman Brandon Whittle made the turn. Beck also made a leaping grab of a looping liner for the final out of the fourth inning.

"I knew that to compete in this series, we were going to have to play the way we're capable, to play at our best," Hammack said. "It was really an enjoyable game to watch. Both teams' defense made great plays."

Nacogdoches took away a potential run from Sulphur Springs in the third. With North on third base, Abner launched a long fly ball to right, but Nac's Chase Wier extended out and made a lunging catch near the wall for the final out.

Notes: Lock had won his first nine decisions before Friday. The Wildcats touched him for six runs, five of them earned, on seven hits and four walks. ... The Wildcats' probable pitching starters today are juniors Jeff Beck and Kevin Mabe, while Nac will likely start Justin McAnich and Stewart Hill.

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