Great Expectations: SS baseball coach has high hopes for season

By JOSEPH ELERSON, News-Telegram Sports Writer

Feb. 21, 2008 - SSHS baseball coach Jerrod Hammack has led the Wildcats to the Class 4A state playoffs his first two seasons at the helm and this year wants to make it a third straight trip with what he considers as one of his best teams.

Coming off a 16-12 season last year in which the Wildcats lost to the Nacogdoches Dragons in bi-district, Hammack compared this year's team to his district championship team of two years ago.

"We are really excited about this team. I really believe that we have the capability of being as good as my first year," the coach said. "Maybe even better than that team, and I know that may be a mouthful because that first team was really good and special. This team has a great combination of senior leadership and great camaraderie with each other, even with guys that are competing for spots."

This Wildcats return seven lettermen and are led by senior hurler Brittan Diamond, who was the District 11-4A MVP last year and was an Honorable Mention All-State selection. He compiled an 8-3 record with a 1.47 ERA on the mound, plus he hit .347 and led the team in hits, runs, doubles and triples.

Hammack said Diamond, a Texarkana College signee, will be the opening day starter against Van in the Wills Point tournament at 11 a.m. today and will bat in the No. 3 hole in the lineup.

"It is great to have him (Diamond) back and I told some of the guys that you are going to have to relish this year," Hammack said. "You are not going to have this combination of talent and leadership too many times. I want to enjoy this season day-by-day. Brittan is a solid player. He is very talented and a great leader, and he is truly the district MVP."

The Wildcats also have back all of their pitching staff from last year in Jeff Beck, Kevin Mabe, Brandon Whittle, Dalton Abner and Dustin Gant. SSHS can also use Mason Rawson, Colton Jones, Josh Anderson and Brady Harmon on the mound this year. Senior Josh Dunn returns after batting .307 last year to handle the catching duties for the Wildcats.

"We are pretty solid without a doubt on the pitching staff," the coach said. "We are just trying to narrow the gap between Brittan and everyone else on the staff. If we can close that gap and get them up to speed with him or close, then we will be really tough.

"We have every single pitcher that threw an inning back with Jeff Beck, Brandon Whittle, Kevin Mabe and then some JV guys like a Mason Rawson, Colton Jones and Josh Anderson, who has done extremely well in the scrimmages. Brady Harmon has been a very pleasant surprise for us in the scrimmages and he is relaxed now with the team and has a lot of ability for us."

The Wildcats open the regular season today in a nine-team tournament divided up into three pools with three teams in each poll. Saturday's match-ups will be determined based on play of the Thursday and Friday games.

"We will face Van in the opening game and then we will play a TAPPS 4A school in Arlington Pantego Christian on Friday," the coach said. "After that, it is difficult to read and it will depend on all three pools and how those teams do and how we do as to who we play after that."

Following the Wills Point tournament, the Wildcats will travel to Mount Vernon and then will play their second tournament of the year at Kilgore next Thursday-Saturday. The Wildcat's final tournament will be at Ennis.

Non-District games include Mesquite Horn, Longview and McKinney North.

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