Wildcats to go best-of-three in series against state's No. 2-ranked team

By JOSEPH ELERSON, News-Telegram Sports Writer

May 7, 2008 - After securing a bi-district title with their win over Kilgore on Friday, the Sulphur Springs Wildcats are preparing for their area round match-up against the No. 2-ranked Mesquite Poteet Pirates.

The two teams will open their Class 4A, Region II best-of-three series at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Poteet. Game 2 is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Eagle Stadium, while Game 3, if necessary, will be back in Mesquite at 1 p.m. Saturday with SSHS designated as the home team.

"We've got a lot of respect for Mesquite Poteet," said SSHS coach Jerrod Hammack. "Like we always talk about with our kids is we want to respect our opponent and not fear them. They are ranked and so is Texas High now, as they come in ranked No. 10 in the polls. We can compete with them (Texas High) and we feel like we can compete with Poteet and beat them in a series."

The Pirates (25-3) are winners of their last 13 games and have outscored their opponents 241-55 this season. Poteet has scored in double figures in 15 games and has held its opponent scoreless in 11 games.

Hammack said after hearing those numbers, the coaching staff will look at all of their pitchers and determine who will be their Game 1 starter. Brittan Diamond, Kevin Mabe and Dalton Abner should see action during the series.

"This is a decision we will talk about as a coaching staff," Hammack said. "We know Brittan has not lost a ballgame at home, so I am really leaning toward that way to pitch him at home. We will have to continue to talk about it and prepare all of our pitchers so the Game 1 starter can get his mind ready for the game."

Senior southpaw Teddy Nowell, a Oklahoma signee, could take the mound in Game 1 for the Pirates as he holds a record of 8-0 this season. In two seasons, he has only lost one game and has an ERA of 1.25 in seven starts this year. He allowed one hit in their 10-0 warm-up victory over Denton Ryan Friday night.

"They have a lefty (Nowell) I have heard about and read about for several years now," the coach said. "His only loss last year was in the state title game, and this year he has not lost a game.

"He does not throw as high as the Texas High lefties, but he throws hard enough with speeds of 84-to-86 and can spot it wherever and whenever he wants to. We are going to have the same approach with him we did against Kilgore."

At the plate, the Pirates have been led by Nowell, Zach Stanley, Austin Blunt, Jake Sutton and Taylor Wilcox. Mesquite Poteet has eight batters hitting over .300, with Nowell and Stanley batting over .400.

Sulphur Springs will counter with leadoff hitter Jeff Beck (.391, nine doubles, 19 RBI), Diamond (.372, five doubles, 17 RBI) and cleanup hitter Jace Jackson (.359,nine doubles, 20 RBI, 10 walks) at the plate. As a team, SSHS has an average of .290 in 25 games.

"We are confident in our ability and we are playing well right now," the coach said. "We are going to crowd the plate, and we will have to hit the ball the other way. We are going to have to do things like we did last week, and we are going to have to play good defense and not make any mistakes. We feel good about our chances and we like the way we are playing. We finally got the monkey off our backs and won a playoff series, so the kids are feeling pretty good."

With a win in this series, SSHS will face the winner of the Nacogdoches-Forney series in the Region II quarterfinals next week. Nacogdoches knocked the Wildcats out of the playoffs one year ago.

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