Two tradition-rich teams match up in the Class 4A Region II Regional Quarterfinal best-of-three series in Canton starting Thursday as the 26-12 Waxahachie Indians face off against the 26-7 Hallsville Bobcats.
Both teams enter the series on a hot streak but for two totally different reasons.
Waxahachie has won 12 of its last 14 games with dominant pitching, solid defense and timely hitting while Hallsville has simply crushed the ball.
“If you have got to have team strengths, our strength is our pitching and defense while theirs is hitting. I always like that combination,” Waxahachie head coach Tracy Wood said. “Anytime a team says they hit really well and I say we pitch really well I like my chances. If a team says they pitch really well, I don’t like that as much.”
Hallsville defeated Forney in three games to take the area series where the Bobcats won game one 7-4, lost game two 17-2 and won the deciding game three 9-5.
“I watched them play Forney in their first game in Athens. They can flat hit. As much as you can tell in one game, they may be as good a hitting team as I have seen this year, period. They just absolutely knock the cover off the baseball. They hit balls really hard 1-9 in their lineup, but I like that,” Wood said.
Leading the offensive charge for Hallsville is second-generation power-hitter Ronnie Gideon. Gideon is batting .477 with 52 hits and 50 RBI this season to set a school record while his 11 home runs are second in school history behind his father.
Justin Wingfield is batting .433 with 53 runs scored, four home runs and 38 RBI for Hallsville as eight players are batting .300 or better.
“When Forney threw their left, the good one, they beat Hallsville 17-2. Hallsville beat them the other two games with a slugfest against average pitching. I do not think Hallsville is going to miss mistakes, they will make you pay. Good thing is we do not make a lot of mistakes,” Wood said.
Where Hallsville excels at the plate the Indians are dominating on the mound.
Senior left-handers Kyle McLeroy are a combined 12-10 on the season but have been nearly unhittable in the playoffs.
Moore is 2-0 in the postseason with a 1.00 ERA while holding opponents to a .143 batting average while McLeroy is 1-1 with a 1.60 ERA, 13 strikeouts while holding opponents to an average below .190.
“I think Kyle and Nick are both throwing really well and throwing with a lot of confidence. I think we are in a good place right now with our club,” Wood said. “If we keep pitching and playing defense we can play with anybody in our region. We can not get into a slugfest with anybody.”
Moore is expected to get the ball in game one, McLeroy in game two and if a game three is needed Wood said he is leaning toward junior Ryan Cawthon.
Cawthon pitched a perfect game in district play against Lancaster and has a 4-0 record on the season with a 1.84 ERA. He pitched three innings in the Hendrickson series allowing one run on four hits.
Moore and McLeroy combined to hold District 13-4A runner-up Sherman to five hits in an area round sweep last week as the Indians won 9-2 and 2-0.
Hallsville, the District 14-4A champion, has three pitchers with impressive win-loss records but Wood believes they are the type of pitchers the Waxahachie bats can feed off of.
“I don’t think their pitching is their strength. I think they have a bunch of right-handers. We hit their style of pitching better than any other type, they will be a lot like Pflugerville Hendrickson,” Wood said.
Tyler Green boasts an 8-0 record for the Bobcats with a 3.02 ERA and 55 strikeouts. Gideon is 5-1 with a 5.40 ERA and 48 strikeouts while Connor Reich is 7-2 with four saves, 61 strikeouts and a 4.03 ERA.
Most of Hallsville’s pitchers are right-handed and that should fare well for the Waxahachie lineup that has five left-handed batters.
Left-handed third baseman Cody Brown is 7-of-9 in his last three games while lefties David Martinelli and McLeroy are both batting near the .500 mark.
McLeroy is batting a team leading .588 in the playoffs with five RBI and has a .390 average with 35 RBI and four home runs on the season.
Martinelli has a .466 average in the postseason with four doubles. The sophomore is batting .363 on the season with three home runs and a team-high 38 RBI. On the season the Indians have eight players batting above .300.
Wood attempted to get another playoff game at Richards Park where the Indians are 5-1 in the playoffs since he took over the team in 2008 but once again the opposition shied away from playing in Waxahachie.
“I wanted to go home and home, I have said that 100 times. I always want to try and get people to come to Richards. I always want to play at our park, I think it is an advantage for us. We fill up the stands, our fans are always loud but there were almost 100 people in Sherman the other day so we travel well and will have a good following in Canton,” Wood said.
Waxahachie’s last loss at home in the playoffs came to Highland Park in 2008 before the Indians won the series and advanced to the state tournament before finishing as state runner-up.
Winner of the series that starts Thursday will face the winner of the Dallas Hillcrest-Rockwall Heath series in the regional semifinals next week.
Heath is ranked ninth in state with a 32-5-1 record as District 10-4A champs while Hillcrest is 31-5-1 as District 12-4A champs. Their series begins at 5 p.m. today in Hillcrest before playing game two at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Rockwall. If needed a game three would be at 1 p.m. Saturday in Sunnyvale.
On the opposite side of the Region II bracket No. 5 Highland Park plays No. 3 Frisco Wakeland in a best of three series starting Thursday while No. 8 Mesquite Poteet plays Texas High Thursday in Longview.
With three more series victories the Indians will be back in Austin but Hallsville is first and will test the Waxahachie pitching with its power bats at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Canton.
Traveling to Canton
Eagle Field is located at 1110 West Highway-243 in Canton on the campus of Canton High School. There is limited seating in Canton so Waxahachie fans are encouraged to bring lawn chairs as there is plenty of extra space for chairs.
Directions: Take I-35 north to I-20. Take I-20 east towards Mesquite/Shreveport. Continue on I-20 until Canton. Take exit 523 toward TX-64/Wills Point. Turn right on TX-64 before turning right on South Buffalo Street. Turn right on TX-243 and the field will be near the high school on the right. Estimated distance from Waxahachie is 80 miles.