One Inning Too Many: Wildcats fall in extra frame in deciding game of bi-district series

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

May 7, 2007 - For three full playoff games, the Sulphur Springs Wildcats and Nacogdoches Dragons were all even. But, Nacogdoches was one run better in one extra inning.

The Wildcats and Dragons were tied at one victory apiece going into Saturday's rubber game in their bi-district match-up, and through seven innings in the deciding third game, the two teams were knotted at 3-3.

But, the baseball gods were smiling on the Dragons in the eighth inning of Game 3 when they used a bad-hop single to start the winning rally of a 4-3 victory.

Nacogdoches (21-10) will move on to the area round to play McKinney North. SSHS ends its season with a 16-13 record.

SSHS starter Kevin Mabe limited Nacogdoches to six hits entering the eighth inning, but Nac's Stewart Hill started by reaching on a bad-hop single to left. SSHS third baseman Dalton Abner was in position for what appeared to be routine play, but on the last bounce, the ball shot high into the air, glancing off Abner's glove into left.

Hill, who scored three runs, went to second on a wild pitch, took third on a ground ball to second and scored on Chase Wier's sacrifice fly.

The Wildcats had one final chance to tie the game, but Nac reliever Cade Lunsford struck out two of the three batters he faced in the bottom of the eighth.

The Wildcats had other opportunities, but left two runners stranded in the second inning and left the bases loaded in the fifth.

"It was very disappointing, especially when you see the seniors' faces after it's over with, and you've got tears. It was extremely disappointing," said SSHS head coach Jerrod Hammack. "After winning the first one on the road, you think surely we can get one of these two at home. Our kids battled so hard in the heat and humidity.

"They're one of the better-hitting opposing teams I've faced in 10 years. They've got some guys that can really stroke the baseball. We knew we were going to have to score some runs on Saturday, and we did. We had some opportunities to win one of the two, but it just didn't work out for us."

Mabe threw a solid game, giving up three earns runs while striking out six and walking none.

Twice, the Wildcats battled back to tie the score. Nacogdoches took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Hill's one-out double and a Wildcat passed ball.

Sulphur Springs tied the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the second as Chris Thompson singled to center, Josh Dunn reached on a fielder's choice and Ladarius Harrison walked. Jeff Beck then walked to force in a run.

Nacogdoches, though, retook the lead in the fourth as Hill's home run - it was the third of the day by the Dragons - and a double by Justin McAnich, who scored on Wier's sacrifice fly.

Sulphur Springs tied the score at 3-3 in the fifth, though they missed on an opportunity for more. Beck singled with one out, Dalton Abner was hit by a pitch, and they both moved up a base on Brittan Diamond's groundout. Then, things got wild.

When Nac starter Hill threw wild pitch, Beck scored from third, but the catcher's throw home couldn't be handled by Hill, and Abner was able to come around third and score the tying run.

After that, Colby Strain walked and Wilks and Thompson both singled. But, the Wildcats left the bases full. That was the last time they would get anyone past first.

Beck ended the game 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI, while Thompson was 2-for-4.

Nacogdoches 8, SSHS 5

In the series' second game, Nac's Weir was the hitting hero, going 3-for-3 with three runs scored and three RBI. He had a pair of home runs and a double to account for half of the Dragons' six extra-base hits.

The Wildcats actually took a 4-1 lead into the fourth inning. They scored one run in the first on a walk to Diamond and an RBI single by Strain.

In the second, they put up another run on a walk to North, who later scored on a throwing error on Beck's grounder to put the Wildcats up, 2-1.

Then, in the third, Diamond reached on an infield single and Strain walked ahead of Tyler Rhoades, who drove the ball down the right field line for a two-run double.

Nacogdoches, though, tied the game in the fourth on a two-run double by Cody Lock and an RBI single by Clay Rich. All of the runs in the inning were unearned because of a pair of SSHS errors.

The Dragons took over control of the game with two runs in the fifth (on Weir's two-run homer), and two more in the fifth.

Beck took the loss for the Wildcats, going six inning and giving up five earned runs, nine hits and four walks. He fanned six.

Offensively, Beck, Diamond, Strain, Wilks, Rhoades and Dunn each had one hit.

Notes: Suited up for their final game for the Wildcats were seniors Colby Strain, Clay Wilks, Tyler Rhoades, Jake North, Ladarius Harrison, Bill Hood and Ty Tiegiser.

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