Wildcats take rivalry from Twitter to diamond

Whitehouse's Patrick Mahomes and the Wildcats take on Sulphur Springs in a best-of-three Class 4A area playoff series beginning Friday in Lindale. (Herb Nygren Jr. | Tyler Morning Telegraph)

LINDALE — Got Twitter?

The Whitehouse and Sulphur Springs baseball teams certainly do.

All week, the heated non-district rivals have been deeply entrenched in verbal warfare against each other on the popular social media site. The colorful sparring has been leading up to this weekend’s playoff showdown between the teams.

“The rivalry kind of starts with football,” Whitehouse coach Derrick Jenkins said. “It’s kind rolled over to baseball. It is kind of heated.”

Whitehouse (23-8) and Sulphur Springs (20-9-1) collide in a best-of-three Class 4A area baseball series at the Lindale High School baseball complex. Game 1 is set for 7 p.m. today and Game 3 follows at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Both schools have developed rich traditions on the football field in recent seasons, during which Sulphur Springs has even gone on to capture a state title. Similarities are also aplenty when it comes to their mascot and style of football, which are the Wildcats and high-tempo spread offense.

Many memorable games and outcomes have been fashioned between the teams in football recently, whether in non-district or the playoffs. Such drama creates great fodder for the players and their fans, evidenced by their exchanges on the World Wide Web this week.

Now it’s all about baseball.

“Sulphur is a good team and I think they feel like they can play with us,” Jenkins said. “They kind of initiated the talk. I look at it sometimes. As long as you do things right it’s OK. If it gets the fans there, it’s not too bad.”

Whitehouse, which advanced to the regional semifinals last season before bowing out to eventual state champion Rockwall-Heath, advanced to the second round with a commanding sweep of Red Oak last week. The scores of the games were 9-2 and 11-5, but the separation between the teams seemed to be much greater.

Sulphur Springs, in the meantime, swept Wylie East 9-8 and 7-6 to begin the playoffs last week.

Ever since Jenkins flipped the lineup in district, Whitehouse has batted effectively from 1 to 9 in the order and got 12 combined hits from the 6, 7 and 9 spots in the Red Oak series. So far the new-look lineup is peaking at just the right time.

“You are going to have to be pretty good on the mound to stop us from hitting,” Jenkins said. “Just talking to the guys they felt like they could protect each other. We talk about some guys hitting better than other guys, so some guys are feeding off a little more of it. They take pressure off each other.”

The winner of the series will have the final say, whether on Twitter or the field. That team will then march on to the regional quarterfinals, where the winner between Hallsville and Mansfield Summit will be waiting.

“I don’t think there’s any dislike,” Jenkins said. “I think some of the fans who don’t play on either side have gotten their feelings hurt. Even if you like each other and things like that, once the game gets started I think it will get pretty intense.”

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