No longer in the same district, Ellis County rivals Midlothian and Waxahachie have found a variety of different ways to meet on the baseball diamond this season and the games between the two are just as heated.
In Friday’s final game of the Robert Dulin Memorial Tournament at Richards Park the two rivals squared off in front of the largest crowd of the tournament with Nick Moore on the mound for the Indians and Blaine Blackburn for the Panthers.
Waxahachie scored early to take a 2-0 lead before Midlothian rallied with three in the third and held on to win the game 3-2 and advance to the tournament championship against Mansfield Summitt on Saturday.
“I think our kids came out and battled tonight. We started early in the year not swinging the bats very well but getting good pitching” Midlothian coach Ray Hydes said. “Tonight Blaine threw the ball extremely well allowing just two hits while we got seven hits and scored some runs when we needed to. You have to learn to win these one run games and I am proud of our kids,
The two teams faced off once in scrimmage action with the Indians getting a 2-1 win in Midlothian and will meet one more time this season at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
“When we played them the first time one of their kids came through the line saying ‘senior year dub’ and I just wanted to come back and show them that we’re coming to play,” Blackburn said.
With the series tied at one game each the Monday, March 14 match at Rangers Ballpark has a little added meaning as both teams prepare for district play.
“We are always going to play Midlothian. They are a good baseball program, close and we have a little rivalry with those guys,” Waxahachie head coach Tracy Wood said. “That is why we switched our teams who we are going to be playing at the ballpark when they went to 5A because we wanted to make sure we got to play them.”
Playing at the Major League Baseball home of the Texas Rangers is nothing new for either team, but with the rivalry game this season there will be a little more on the line than just getting a chance to play on the same field as MLB legends.
“We get to match wits at the ballpark,” Hydes said. “That game is all about the kids getting the experience and having fun but we are not going there just to play. Every time we go out to play we are playing to win. Waxahachie and Midlothian is always a battle and every time we play it is going to be a close game. We have a ton of respect for these guys over here.”
After a scoreless first Friday the Indians showed why they have the respect of Hydes as they tacked on two runs in the bottom of the second with one hit and a little small ball.
Kyle McLeroy singled to center with one away before Jeremy Escobar and Ryan Cawthon walked to load the bases. A passed ball allowed McLeroy to score before a sacrifice fly off the bat of Chase Rudolph gave the Indians a 2-0 lead.
Midlothian battled back as Bryant Engle singled with one away in the third before Alec Humphreys walked. Engle advanced to third on a fly out to center by Cody Cain.
With runners on the corners the Midlothian bats came alive as Daniel Rushing doubled to left-center field, driving in two before a single to left off the bat of Justin Shealy gave Midlothian the lead.
“Big hits is what it came down to again. We got a couple of balls up that they hit pretty hard in situations that they scored runs on but I don’t think that Nick pitched bad. We just did not get big hits when we had to have them,” Wood said.
Both pitchers held the bats in check the rest of the game as the two big hits by the Panthers were enough to leave Richards Park with a win.
Blackburn picked up the win for Midlothian. He struck out four, walked two and allowed two hits but was near perfect after being given a lead to work with.
“I had to come back and show my teammates I could do as good pitching as they did hitting. It was real fun,” Blackburn said. “I told my friends it was over now once I had the lead. I was trying to get them with my curve ball but it was not working that good so I just turned to the fastball.”
The senior right-handed pitcher faced one batter over the minimum in the final three innings and retired the Indians in order in the fourth and fifth to ice the game.
Waxahachie’s Moore was just as effective on the mound as the senior south-paw struck out seven Panthers, walked three and hit one while allowing seven hits.
Michael Bosch and McLeroy recorded the Waxahachie hits while Rushing was 3-for-3 for Midlothian. Colton Clanton, Engle, Shealy and Brad Younts accounted for the rest of Midlothian’s hits.