Two teams that missed the playoffs last season are looking to advance to the Class 4A Regional Quarterfinals as the Waxahachie Indians and Sherman Bearcats square off in a best-of-three area series starting Friday at Richards Park.
Waxahachie (23-11) enters the series coming off a bi-district series win against District 16-4A champion Pflugerville Hendrickson while Sherman defeated Pine Tree 7-5 in a one-game bi-district match in which Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein was in attendance.
Epstein traveled to Mesquite last week to watch the game because Sherman pitcher Kyle Crick is expected to be an early draft pick in the 2011 MLB First Year Player Draft in June and the Red Sox have four of the first 40 picks.
Crick, a 6-foot-3 right handed pitcher, got a no decision against Pine Tree as he left trailing 5-4 before Sherman’s No. 2 starter Blake Liss pitched the final two innings to pick up the win.
“The depth of our pitching showed tonight,” Sherman coach Art Senato told the Herald Democrat after the game. “We gave the ball to Tyler without a second thought, and they had to stick with the same guy the whole game. I think he may have gotten a little tired, and we were definitely getting around on him better in the last two innings. I think the depth of our pitching staff really helped us tonight.”
With Crick and Liss as the one-two punch for the Bearcats all season the team went from missing the playoffs last season to a 24-9 record this year as District 13-4A runner-up. The duo are a combined 15-1 on the season, Senato’s first as coach of the Bearcats.
Crick has hit 95 mph on the radar gun this season but averages 89-93. He has a hard slider and a splitter but like he showed against Pine Tree, he does not have the stamina to close out games at this point of his career.
Both Sherman pitchers have signed college letters of intent as Crick is signed with TCU while Liss, a lefty, is signed with Grayson County College.
The first game of the area series will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Richards Park while games two and three will be Saturday in Sherman.
With Waxahachie’s win at Richards Park that snapped Mesquite Poteet’s 59-game district winning streak teams have been reluctant to play at the ball field.
Hendrickson did not want to play a home-and-home series to open the playoffs but Sherman was willing to play game one at Richards. With Waxahachie’s ability to defend its home field against the best do not be surprised to see Crick on the mound for game one with several MLB scouts on hand to catch the pressure-packed game.
Waxahachie also has depth at pitcher and head coach Tracy Wood took advantage of that in the bi-district series.
Wood sent Cameron Phillips to the mound for the game one start against Pflugerville’s ace before sending Waxahachie ace Kyle McLeroy to the mound for game two. In game three Wood sent Nick Moore to the mound and the senior showed why the Indians are a legit playoff contender with a four-hit shut out of Hendrickson.
McLeroy and Moore have nearly identical stats this season with low ERAs while Phillips has been mainly used as a closer. Trent Armstrong, Andrew Smith and Ryan Cawthon could also see time in the series with Sherman and do not be surprised to see one of them on the mound for game one as Wood looks to use the home field advantage and pitching depth to his benefit.
Both McLeroy and Moore have signed letters of intent to play college ball while Waxahachie center fielder Michael Bosch and second baseman Seth Sims have as well.
There will be plenty of talent on display Friday at Richards Park as the two teams look to get a jump start on the series by taking the game one lead.
By looking for the fastball and being patient as Crick wears down, the Indians have a good chance to jump out to a 1-0 lead in the series Friday.
Crick was mainly a first baseman last season before playing in the Area Code Games in California where his 94-mph fastball caught the attention of scouts nationwide.
Waxahachie has shown the ability to hit top pitchers this season and the bats are hot through the first three playoff games.
Six Indians with at least seven at-bats are hitting above .300 for the playoffs with McLeroy leading the way with a .500 average and two RBI from the No. 3 spot in the batting order. Leadoff man Michael Bosch is batting .375 while Seth Sims and Cody Brown are each batting .445 with a combined four RBI. David Martinelli is batting .429 while Phillips is batting .300 with two RBI and Ryan Cawthon is batting .400.
As a team the Indians out hit Pflugerville 29-21 in the first three postseason games.
Sherman and Waxahachie have not faced each other since 2006 when the Indians won 9-2 in the Midway Tournament under the direction of Matt Webb. In comparable games this season the Indians split with Corsicana, losing 1-0 and winning 10-1 while Sherman lost to Corsicana 2-1 before pulling out a 4-3 win.
Waxahachie ISD is encouraging fans to fill Richards Park with Waxahachie green and pack out the stadium. The school is also encouraging fans to bring lawn chairs and blankets to sit down the foul lines on each side of the field.
The series shifts to Sherman Saturday for game two at 2 p.m. and a game three to follow if needed. Winner of the series plays the winner of the Forney-Hallsville series in the regional quarterfinals.
Waxahachie split the season series with Forney in district play as each team won on the road.
Waxahachie defeated Forney 4-2 in Forney on April 12 as part of its eight-game winning streak to end district play while the Rabbits topped the Indians 2-1 in Waxahachie on March 18.