WAXAHACHIE — An all-district pitcher returned to form while another member of the Indian pitching staff left the yard to cap a perfect opening week of district play for Waxahachie baseball.
Behind a complete-game performance from Jackson Leath, (13-3, 2-0) No. 7 Waxahachie handed (12-3-2, 1-1) No. 40 Red Oak its first loss in District 10-5A this season.
The shutout was the third for the Indians this season, with Leath tossing the first one Feb. 23 against Robert E. Lee High School. The other came when Levi David no-hit Whitehouse March 3.
The last time Leath (3-1, 3.55 ERA) took the ball on the hill for the Indians, he was roughed up for 10 runs — seven earned — on 12 hits with just two strikeouts and four walks in 3.2 innings of work. The abysmal outing came a week after he was touched up for four earned runs on six hits and three walks in five innings against Corsicana.
Friday night at Paul Richards Park in the District 10-5A home opener, Leath was the polar opposite. The senior scattered four hits and issued just one walk with six strikeouts in his seven innings of work.
“We have a lot of confidence in Jackson. He has done it for us before and is a returning all-district pitcher,” Waxahachie head baseball coach Tracy Wood said. “He had a rough outing and after that, I kind of challenged him a little bit, and he accepted it and wanted the ball.”
Wood explained that the coaching staff needed to see a quality bullpen from Leath before penciling the righty with an upper-80s, sometimes low-90s fastball into the Friday lineup. The bullpen session was impressive enough, but the head coach added it was the demeanor displayed by Leath after that confirmed the senior was ready for a bounce-back outing.
“He came out here, threw the ‘pen and looked really good, but what was more impressive than the ‘pen was when he walked by me with his chest out and asked, ‘Do I get the ball now?’ He wanted the ball and that is what I wanted to see. I have not doubt that he is a really good pitcher and you see that with the zero up there [on the scoreboard]. I was really proud of the way he bounced back tonight.”
As the bottom of the first inning began to unfold, it appeared that Waxahachie was headed for yet another game where well-hit baseballs were not going to find anything other than the leather of a glove.
Trevin Robinson received nothing for a rope he sent off of the screws into right-center field that center fielder Bryant Bailey tracked down with a spectacular diving grab to his left. Even the first hit for the Tribe came after Peyton Graham had to beat out a throw to first on a ground ball flagged down by Brady Faulkner at shortstop.
Graham then stole second and, after an Alec Sanchez strikeout, Joey Trevino found a hole in the left side of the Red Oak infield to put runners on the corners with two outs. That was when Levi David drilled the ball back up the middle and off the right arm of Red Oak starting pitcher Chase Jennings (4-1) for an infield single and 1-0 Waxahachie lead.
The Indians went away quietly, sort of, in the second and third innings. Robinson put a second quality swing on the baseball but just missed the middle half, flying out to left field with Ryan Allen on base in the second inning. David also laced a ball to Faulkner at shortstop that the senior fielded cleanly for an out.
“We hit the ball hard and didn’t get anything from it in the first couple of innings but those things are going to happen and this game will come back to you if you keep swinging it,” Wood said, “but we did have some big hits.”
Those timely hits began to fall in the fourth inning when the Tribe scratched a pair of runs across the plate.
Sage Hampton led off with a single to right field and was promptly moved into scoring position when Trey Thompson executed a sacrifice bunt. Hampton then moved to third on an Allen ground out and was singled home by senior third baseman Tyler Navarro. Back-to-back singles by Robinson and Graham scored Navarro for a 3-0 Indian lead.
A pair of groundouts to Graham at second base and a Leath strikeout sent the Hawks down in order in the top of the fifth inning. The Indian offense, or David actually, then supplied the fireworks in the bottom half of the frame.
Joey Trevino walked on five pitches to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning. Three pitches later and after a steal of second, David launched his second home run of the season down the left-field line. The only doubt was if the ball would stay fair as it sailed deep into the trees beyond the advertisement-lined fence.
“Ty had a huge hit and obviously Levi’s, we all saw what that was, it was a big hit. Our two sophomores are playing well, too, and Trey was also huge behind the plate for us,” Wood said. “I think what you take away from this game is the way Jackson bounced back, the timely hitting and that zero. That’s what it is all about — pitching and defense, and I think we are really solid there.”
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith