Cats' bats not coming around yet

By JOSEPH ELERSON | News-Telegram Sports Writer

March 2, 2008 - KILGORE - After finishing the Oil Belt Classic in fifth place last year, the Sulphur Springs Wildcats were sent home after Day 2 of this year's tournament with a 3-1 loss to the Lindale Eagles Friday afternoon.

"It is not how we wanted this to be going 1-2 in the tournament because we know that we are better than that," said SSHS coach Jerrod Hammack.

"The frustration continues for us this season. We are getting well pitched ballgames out of our pitchers and for the most part the defense is playing well. When you score between one and two runs a game, then we are not swinging the bats very well. It is the same problem that we have had since we started the season."

Sulphur Springs (5-3) had a good pitching performance from senior hurler Dalton Abner as he went the complete game, giving up three runs - two earned - on eight hits while striking out five batters.

"Dalton did a great job and kept them off balance today," the coach said. "We were unable to go inside on them for some reason, and they were able to turn on his pitches so we had to go away from them. He did a nice job on the mound, and he deserved a better result today."

Of the eight hits by Lindale, five of them went for extras as Lindale's Justin Copeland, Cody Highnote, Justin Valdez, Tanner Rutledge and Nathan Simmons all recorded doubles.

Lindale starting pitcher Valdez was able to get out of a jam in the first inning after giving up a double to senior Jeff Beck on the first pitch of the game. He then retired the next three batters on two strikeouts and a ground out.

Lindale was able to break the scoreless tie in the bottom of the third inning as Valdez grounded out to short scoring Copeland for the 1-0 lead.

SSHS then came back with a run in the top of the fourth as with one out, Brittan Diamond and Jace Jackson smacked back-to-back singles to put runners on first and second. On the next at-bat, senior Josh Dunn rapped an RBI single to left field scoring Diamond.

Lindale put the game out of reach in the bottom of the fifth inning as Travis Rhea opened the inning with a single, followed by a sacrifice bunt from Copeland. Highnote then smacked a double scoring Rhea for the 2-1 lead.

Valdez then singled to put runners on first and third. Valdez attempted a steal of second base, and Dunn, at catcher, threw down, but no one was covering the bag. Highnote came into score on the play.

"For the second time this tournament that has happened," Hammack said. "We did that in one of the earlier games during this tournament. We have a first-and-third situation and we are supposed to be in double play depth. The shortstop is supposed to cover second and the second baseman is the cut man on that play, and we have not run it right yet."

Jackson led the team at the plate going 2-for-3 with a double, while Beck, Diamond, Dunn and Brandon Whittle all went 1-for-3. Beck, Diamond and Whittle had doubles for the Wildcats.

"Our pitch selection is horrible right now and we are hitting the pitcher's pitch which is making us have weak balls and easy defensive outs," the coach said. "Most of our hitting is mental right now, and ever since that first game started this season, we have not swung the bats well. Until we can fix the problem of pitch selection and being disciplined, we are going to have a lot of 3-1 ballgames."

Due to the TAKS test being held this week, the Wildcats' scheduled game against the Athens Hornets on Tuesday has been canceled. The Wildcats will now head into their final tournament of the year this weekend at the Ennis Lions Allen Samuels Autoplex Invitational Tournament. They open the tourney against the Corsicana Tigers at 4:45 p.m. Thursday.

Game 2

SSHS 5, Liberty-Eylau 3

Brady Harmon picked up his first victory of the year against the Class 3A state finalist from a year ago.

The Wildcats were able to jump out to a 4-0 lead, but L-E battled back late before SSHS came up with an insurance run to keep the game out of reach.

Individual stats were not available on the game.

Game 1

Bullard 5, SSHS 1

In their opening game of the tournament, the Wildcats had a tough defensive effort against the Panthers.

Hammack said the Wildcats had four errors in the game and did not swing the bats well.

"Against Bullard, Diamond took the loss and only one run was earned," the coach said. "We made probably four errors that game and we are usually a pretty good defensive team. We also once again did not swing the bats well in that game."

Bullard made one error in the game that resulted in the Wildcats' only run of the game off starter Nick Rumbelow and reliever Agnew.

Individual stats on the Bullard game were not available.

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