Texas High clinches baseball title with 6-3 victory

By JOSEPH ELERSON, News-Telegram Sports Writer

April 23, 2008 - TEXARKANA - In a battle for a possible district championship Tuesday night, the Sulphur Springs Wildcats could not spoil Senior Night festivities for the Texas High Tigers in a 6-3 loss at Tiger Field.

With the win, Texas High secured the district championship, while the Wildcats wrapped up the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. Lindale secured the third seed with an 11-0 win over North Lamar.

"It was a tough night and we really expected to come in here and win this ballgame," said SSHS coach Jerrod Hammack. "We didn't do what it takes to win. Give them credit as they were able to get things going with two outs. We have two outs and nobody on and I think two strikes on the batter. The kid then hits a double down the line and then things just started happening from there."

The Wildcats (13-10, 7-2) will wrap up the regular season Friday night against the North Lamar Panthers for Senior Night, and Hammack said this will be a big game for the Wildcats.

"We are the second seed without a doubt, and we locked that down with our last district win," the coach said. "We need to go into the playoffs on a winning note and we are going to try and have two good days of practices. We are going to get after North Lamar on Friday and then we will face either Marshall, Kilgore or Henderson in the playoffs. My bet is that we face Marshall and we are going to try and prepare for them."

On Friday, the Wildcats had a chance to take the early lead in the third inning as Kevin Mabe led off the inning with a walk, stole second advanced to third as Brandon Whittle reached on a third strike, passed ball to put runners on first and third with one out. The Wildcats then hit into their first-of-two double plays to end the inning.

In the bottom half of the inning, Texas High (23-3, 8-0) sent eight batters to the plate and scored four runs off Wildcat ace Brittan Diamond with two outs.

Josh Turley led off the rally with a double to left field, followed by an RBI single from Ricardo Pierce. Slade Heathcott then singled to the wall in center field, and Hunter Allday cleared the bases with a two-run double to the right field corner. John Stilson then ended the rally with a RBI triple for a 4-0 lead.

The Wildcats had an opportunity to score in the top of the fourth inning with no outs as Dalton Abner opened the inning with a walk. Diamond then smacked a single to center field to put runners on first and third. But, Texas High turned a 4-6-3 double play and had a strikeout to end the inning with one runner stranded.

"That was big and give them credit," Hammack said of the two T-High double plays. "The pitcher (Heathcott) did a good job inducing those ground balls and they turned it over like they were supposed to. I thought we would score on them first with first and third and nobody out, but again they made good plays and got the job done."

Richard Wrightner opened the fourth inning for the Tigers reaching on a third strike, passed ball. On the next at-bat, Carlton Bailey lined a shot off Diamond and then Turley was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Pierce then hit into a fielder's choice as Abner fired down to catcher Josh Dunn to record the out on Wrightner. Heathcott then drilled a three-run single for the 6-0 lead.

Senior shortstop Jeff Beck gave the Wildcats the spark they needed in the top of the fifth inning with two outs as he blasted a three-run home run to left field off Heathcott, driving in Mabe and Whittle, for the 6-3 deficit. Beck finished the game 1-for-3 with three RBI and one run scored.

Following the home run, Heathcott and Turley retired seven of the final eight Wildcats batters in the game.

The duo of Heathcott and Turley combined for only two hits and 14 strikeouts against the Wildcats. After pitching on Friday night, Turley picked up the save as he went the final two innings with five strikeouts and one hit batter.

For the Wildcats, Diamond took the loss as he pitched the complete game, giving up six runs on nine hits. He struck out five batters and walked none while hitting one batter.

"He (Diamond) means quite a bit to us to say the least," Hammack said. "He is a winner and a champion and he gives us all he has every time out. They swung the bats a little bit and they happened to hit mistake pitches better than most teams do."

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