Never Too Late

Wildcats use late-inning rally to beat Mount Vernon

By JOSEPH ELERSON | News-Telegram Sports Writer

Feb. 27, 2008 - MOUNT VERNON - Sulphur Springs head coach Jerrod Hammack saw some good things and some areas to improve on during the Wildcats 5-2 late-inning win over the Mount Vernon Tigers on Tuesday.

"We have done that two-or-three times this year," Hammack said of the late-inning victory. "We really need to figure out a way to get started quicker. We let teams hang around that are not as good as we are, and it makes it more stressful than it has to be. We are finding ways to win, and we were using this game as a tuneup for the tournament."

The Wildcats threw five-of-their-eight pitchers against Mount Vernon, with none of them going more than two innings.

Dalton Abner picked up the win, giving up one hit and striking out four in two innings of work. Mason Rawson picked up the save while giving up two walks and striking out two in five batters faced.

"We threw a lot of pitchers and I thought all of them did a good job for us," the coach said. "We are glad to get out of here with a win, and we are looking forward to the tournament.

"You can throw bullpen sessions which are nice. If you can mix in those bullpens with live game competition, then I think that is even better. That is what we did tonight."

Both teams had a hard time figuring out starting pitchers Brittan Diamond for SSHS and Mount Vernons' Colton Keener in the first inning, but once SSHS made the switch in the second the Tigers started to find their offense.

In the bottom of the second inning, the Tigers scored a run off of reliever Brady Harmon as Keener sandwiched a single in between two ground outs. He then scored on a single to deep left field by J.J. Fountain for the 1-0 lead.

Mount Vernon added to its lead in the third on a wild double play from SSHS right fielder Ben Barrows. On the play, Tigers second baseman Kellan Carrell hit a fly ball to shallow right field, which Barrows misplayed as Taylor Mayes scored on the play. With the two Tiger baserunners confused, Barrows fired a shot to Diamond, who was playing third base, for the second out of the inning. Diamond then threw to second to record the 9-5-4 double play.

"It was a weird situation on that play and their coach wanted it to be the infield fly rule," Hammack said. "Since our outfielder called them off and he ran up there it was a judgment call. The runners were fouled up and they didn't know what to do, and we got the double play out of it to end the inning."

The Wildcats tied the game in the top of the fourth inning as Harmon and Dustin Gant reached on back-to-back singles. With two outs in the inning, Brandon Whittle smacked an RBI single to left field scoring Harmon and then two batters later, Barrows worked a bases-loaded walk scoring Gant for the 2-2 tie.

In the sixth, the Wildcats sent eight batters to the plate as with one out Jayden Wallace hit a single to left, followed by Whittle being hit by a pitch. Sulphur Springs then put together a two-out rally as Barrows was hit by a pitch and Diamond forced a bases-loaded walk. Jace Jackson then smacked a two-run single to right field for the 5-2 finale.

Jackson led the team at the plate going 2-for-4 with two RBI, while Harmon went 2-for-2 with a run scored. Whittle went 1-for-2 with an RBI and a run scored.

Hammack said once the team gets a plan together at the plate, then they will be a tough team to play against the remainder of the season.

"I do feel good at 4-1 even though we are not playing at or near the level that these kids are capable of playing at," Hammack said. "You don't want to peak too early, but I would like to be playing better than we are right now. The defense and the pitching is fine right now, but we need to get the offense going quicker at the plate."

The Wildcats (4-1) are scheduled to face Class 3A Bullard at 9 a.m. Thursday in the opening game of the Oil Belt Classic in Kilgore,with the second game of the day scheduled for 1 p.m. in the consolation bracket or 3 p.m. in the winners' bracket.

"Hopefully those kids can get up and get going because Bullard is going to be a good ballclub," Hammack said. "They have all of their players back, and this tournament is going to be a true test of where we are as a team."

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