CORSICANA – A stiff wind blowing in from center field made hits a tough task Tuesday night and home runs a near impossibility.
But don’t tell that to Corsicana’s Hunter Melton.
Melton added to his already spectacular junior season with another home run — his third straight home game with a round-tripper — that tipped the balance in the Tigers’ favor in a 1-0 victory over Waxahachie at Price Field.
If that weren’t enough, Melton took the ball after another solid shutout performance from Holden Grounds to work a scoreless seventh for the save.
“Those two won the game for us tonight,” coach Billy Harlan said. “And I’m just glad we have Hunter Melton on our team. I would not want to pitch to him.”
Melton’s big hit spoiled an otherwise masterful performance from Waxahachie’s Kyle McLeroy, who gave up only two hits and struck out 10. The loss dropped the Indians (12-8) to 1-3 in district play.
“That’s the third game it’s been like that,” Waxahachie coach Tracy Wood said. “Our guys are pitching their guts out. We just have to find a key hit somewhere.”
The game was equally as lifting for the Tigers (14-7, 4-1), who bounced back from a tough 1-0 loss to Mesquite Poteet (12-4, 5-0) last Friday and remain just a game back of first place.
“This was a separation week for us,” Harlan said. “We have to win two ball games this week to get to 5-1 so we can separate by beating Terrell Friday and staying at the top of the district.”
In a game that took less than two hours to complete, Grounds was able to strand five Indians on base, including one in each of the final two innings. He threw strikes consistently with a hard fastball as he scattered three hits and a pair of walks over six innings to earn his fourth win.
“Holden fought through some mechanical things and pitched another great game,” Harlan said. “The only mistake (McLeroy) made was throwing Hunter Melton a fast ball.”
The Tigers had managed just two base runners going into the sixth inning and hadn’t even sniffed a chance to score until Melton stepped into the box with a 2-1 count and one out. The junior and future Aggie, who hit two ground outs in his previous at-bats, smashed a high fly ball up into a 20 mph wind blowing it toward the right field foul pole and over the fence.
“I knew with the wind, I had to look to right field at all times,” Melton said about his ninth home run of the season. “As soon as it came off the bat, I knew it was pretty much gone. … From there, it felt great to celebrate with my teammates.”
Harlan said he had planned for Melton to pitch an inning Friday night but wasn’t sure going into the sixth.
“We were thinking about it, but we wanted him to do it with a lead,” Harlan said. “He made that decision for us.”
David Villarreal, Michael Bosch and Andrew Smith had the three Waxahachie hits in the game while Bosch stole a base in the sixth.
McLeroy’s performance was his third dominating start in district play but he fell to 1-2 due to a lack of run support.
After scoring 11 runs in the district opener against Terrell, the Indians have scored one run in three district games since.
McLeroy allowed one run to Terrell, two to Red Oak and one to Corsicana in his three starts while supplying the only run offensively for the Indians in a three-game stretch with a solo home run against Forney in a 2-1 loss where Nick Moore pitched well for Waxahachie.
The Indians will host West Mesquite (1-3 in district) Friday at Richards Park. Nick Moore is expected to be on the mound for the Tribe as first pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Prior to the start of the game the Waxahachie Special Olympics athletes led by coach Lonnie Gaylor will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.