RED OAK – The scoreboard read 2-0 for runs scored in Red Oak’s win over Waxahachie Tuesday night. In reality, it could have been representing two successful magic tricks against none.
The Hawks scored both their runs on steals of home plate while the Indians got caught stealing home once and fooled no one with a fake pickoff attempt, leading to their first loss in district play this season.
Both Red Oak runs came in the fourth inning as the Hawks finished with eight stolen bases on the night but only two hits.
“We practice stealing home, we practice the first and thirds a lot. With our offense we’re not a team that’s going to go out and bang the ball around so we just try to produce runs any way we can and when we get lucky enough to get base runners on we practice that stuff,” Red Oak coach Heath Autrey said.
Waxahachie (12-6, 1-1 district) actually got the first shot at home plate when David Martinelli got a one-out double and moved to third on a flair to right by Seth Sims. During Trent Armstrong’s at-bat, Sims made the steal attempt of second, bringing Red Oak catcher Dillon Cartwright to his feet for what looked to be a throw down to the base. The Indians sent Martinelli home but Red Oak second baseman Zach Gonzales undercut the throw firing back to home for the tag at the plate.
The Indians only got three more runners to third the rest of the night and left five stranded in scoring position.
“We couldn’t string nothing together. We hit the ball, had some hits but couldn’t string nothing together,” Waxahachie coach Tracy Wood said. “We had our opportunities. We had plenty of opportunities early, middle, late. Had plenty of opportunities, just couldn’t get it done.”
Red Oak (11-7, 2-1 district) made its move in the fourth when center fielder Dillon Morales reached first on an error. Pitcher Robert Elles followed a with flair to right and was replaced on the bag by pinch runner Jacob Lindsey. Both players stole a base during Garret Anthony’s at-bat.
With two-out and Mike Amlong at the plate, Autrey turned to Morales and offered the opportunity he had been wanting all season. Once Amlong had the take sign, Morales sprinted home as the throw sailed to the backstop and Red Oak took the lead.
“It felt good that he had faith in me that I would get there and that I knew what I was doing,” Morales said. “I played with (Waxahachie pitcher) Kyle (McLeroy) for a long time and we knew each other for a long time so I kind of knew how he was from the windup. I looked at coach, he looked and me and said you’ve got it.”
Amlong eventually drew a walk but the aggressive play didn’t end there. With Lindsey on third during Alberto Hernandez’s at-bat, the Hawks executed another steal, this time doing the same thing Waxahachie had done earlier with Amlong going for second and Lindsey taking home. The throw reached the backstop again allowing the second run to come home.
“It’s just (Autrey’s) way to play the game. He believes in all his players and that’s why we’re here,” Lindsey said.
That would be enough offense for Elles, who went all seven innings, allowing seven hits while striking out seven. The senior pitcher got strong defense from a unit that was without its leader. Red Oak’s leading hitter and starting shortstop, Garret Thomas, was lost prior to the game after taking a ball to the face during batting practice in the cages. The senior suffered a broken nose but did return to the dugout for the final inning after making a precautionary trip to the hospital.
While Thomas wasn’t there, the Hawks committed just one error while Zach Gonzales’ over-the-shoulder catch to end the fifth salvaged a potential rally. Hernandez ended the game with a leaping snap at short.
“I felt good. I had a heck of a defense playing behind me and that helped out a heck of a lot because that team can hit. I just kept on throwing, trying to hit the locations,” Elles said.
For Waxahachie, a sterling performance by McLeroy was lost among the defeat. The senior worked all six innings, allowing just two hits while striking out seven.
The Indians did commit three errors in the infield, one of which led to the runs. The team also couldn’t complete a fake pickoff attempt that has worked several times this season. McLeroy faked a throw to second in the fifth inning with his fielders and dugout acting as if the ball went wide and made it to the wall. Red Oak’s Zach Gonzales wasn’t fooled by the attempt and stayed put. It’s one of the few times that play hasn’t worked this year.
While there wasn’t much solace in a solid effort, McLeroy hopes the Indians will come up with the necessary offense next time to get the job done.
“I felt pretty good tonight. I’ve been resting my arm up pretty good. I guess I didn’t throw as well as I could have, still gave up two runs,” McLeroy said. “(Next time we’ll have to) play defense and score more runs.”