Wildcats prepare for Friday's playoff game

From Staff Reports

April 28, 2008 - The seven Sulphur Springs seniors Wildcats were sent off with a bang Friday night in a 9-2 win over the North Lamar Panthers at Eagle Stadium.

"We won the ballgame which was the most important thing," SSHS coach Jerrod Hammack said. "We did not want to go into the playoffs on a losing note after losing two in a row to two really good teams.

"I really didn't think we were focused as we had been for this game. We struck out way too many times against an average pitcher, and I think it was double digits. That is unacceptable at this juncture of the season."

The Wildcats (14-10) will return to the friendly confines of Eagle Stadium for a one-game showdown with the Kilgore Bulldogs in the bi-district round of the playoffs at 7 p.m. Friday.

Hammack said he usually likes to go for a best-of-three series rather than a one-game, winner-take-all in the playoffs. But, the Kilgore coach offered to play the game at Sulphur Springs with the Wildcats being the home team.

"I am a two-out-of-three guy and I think we have the better pitching staff. I knew he wanted a one-gamer and we were going to flip for it for sure, because he wasn't going to take two-out-of-three," Hammack said. "So the offer was something that was too good of an idea to pass up."

With the win, the Wildcats wrap up the regular season with an 8-2 record in District 11-4A as the runner-up behind Texas High. The Tigers, Wildcats and Lindale Eagles will represent District 11-4A in the playoffs.

On Friday, the Wildcats got out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning as Dalton Abner led off with a walk. With one out in the inning, Jace Jackson reached on an error by the right fielder to put runners on second and third. Senior first baseman Dustin Gant then rapped a two-run single down the third base line off NL pitcher Canyon Conley. Gant led the way for the Wildcats going 2-for-4 with a run scored and three RBI.

"He (Gant) has really come on strong," the coach said. "He is a very good defensive first baseman, and then when you can get him a couple of hits like he did in the game, then he is very productive for us."

In the top of the fourth inning, the Panthers were able to tie the game on an error with two outs.

The Wildcats then put the game out of reach in the bottom of the fifth inning as they batted through the lineup scoring six runs on four hits to take an 8-2 lead.

With one out in the inning, Brittan Diamond reached first on a two-base error. He was then caught in a rundown and advanced to third as the third baseman misplayed the throw.

"It was a matter of their miscues," Hammack said. "If you watch the whole play, they overthrew first base when he was going to first and then they overthrew second and that is how he got to second. When the inside guy moved on him, then they picked him off and he got in a rundown and did a good job of jockeying back and forth and they made a mistake to get him on third."

Diamond then came into score on a strikeout, passed ball to Jackson as he advanced to second on an error by the catcher. After a wild pitch sent him to third, Josh Dunn worked a walk and Gant drove in Jackson with a single for a 4-2 lead.

Kevin Mabe then singled and Ben Barrows reached on a strikeout, passed ball scoring courtesy runner Cedric Finnie. Brandon Whittle then drove in Gant with a bases-loaded single and Jeff Beck cleared the bases with a double to left field for the final runs of the inning.

"That has been a rarity when it comes to the district games because for the most part we have gotten off to a quick start," Hammack said of their fifth inning. "This is probably the third game in a row that we have had trouble getting going and it is a lack of focus and concentration. We did not take advantage of a pitcher that I thought was average and we were taking his pitches."

Jackson then scored their final run of the game in the sixth inning on a RBI single by Dunn for the 9-2 finale.

"We mixed in enough hits and they made a lot of mistakes," the coach said. "Kevin threw a great ballgame, which was certainly a highlight of the night, and as far as our performance overall, it was not very good but we got a win."

Mabe picked up the win with a complete-game four hitter, as he struck out 10 batters and walked one.

Note: This was the final regular season game at Eagle Stadium for seniors Beck, Abner, Dunn, Diamond, Gant, Mabe and Whittle.

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