Two years removed from advancing to the Class 4A state tournament the Waxahachie Indians missed the playoffs last season with a load of inexperienced young players.
Waxahachie picked up several big wins during regular season action in 2010 including beating district champ Cleburne with freshman pitcher Trent Armstrong on the mound and this year the team is back and hungry for more.
“Expectations are always high. Being in Waxahachie you know that everybody is expecting you to win a district championship and carry on the long tradition of winning,” senior outfielder Cameron Phillips said.
“If we keep building on what we’ve been doing in the scrimmages – throwing strikes, playing defense, and getting clutch hits – we have a very good chance to win many games and hopefully get into and be successful in the playoffs.”
All the starters from last season return for the Indians while two impact players will start the season on the varsity for the first time.
Kyle McLeroy, Trent Armstrong and Nick Moore return on the mound and look to give the Indians a strong rotation while the batting order has no weak spots and the outfield is the best head coach Tracy Wood has had in his 23 years of coaching.
“I think our outfield is the best outfield I have ever coached. I think it can be really good defensively. If we started tomorrow and had Kyle on the mound we would probably have Michael Bosch in center, Cameron in right and Armstrong in left. That is three guys who run pretty good and all pitch so they have plus arms. That is not even with Andrew Smith and Paco (David Villarreal) in there, both of those guys can play too.”
Phillips started in center and led off last season for the Tribe but will be moved in both positions for the addition of Bosch.
“It’s a honor for coach to think about us like that especially because he has seen a lot of baseball and knows what it takes to win. The best thing about us is probably the strength of our arms and our depth. We have six guys that are solid and can be rotated around almost anywhere out there,” Phillips said. “Bosch is probably one of, if not, the most talented players on the team. He is an excellent addition to our outfield and a reliable bat in the lineup. I’ve realized that it is his role to be that for the team and I am perfectly fine with that. I will play where ever and when ever my team needs me. If that means sitting on the bench, I’ll be there on the rail cheering us on. We are all committed to whatever it takes to win.”
Bosch played on the junior varsity last season after transferring in from Maypearl. The UIL ruled him ineligible for varsity baseball last season after two years of starting and earning all-district honors for Maypearl.
“One of the major differences is we have Bosch leading off. He played JV ball last year and he is looking really good up there. He is the spark. If he can set the table for us then it gives me options,” Wood said. “He is the fastest guy we have got. He handles the bat really well, bunts really well and can run the bases.”
Behind Bosch in the batting order will be Seth Sims, McLeroy, David Martinelli and Villarreal.
Sims batted second last season and has the ability to hit for average and lay down a bunt while McLeroy and Martinelli have power bats that can clear the bases with a single hit.
Martinelli is the second newcomer for the Indians this season. He joined the team late in district play last year and had a big home run in the win against Cleburne. He will start at short after playing third last year.
Brown started at short last season after starting at third his sophomore year when the Indians last made the playoffs. A senior leader, he was more than happy to return to third this season.
“I am very excited for the move. I’ve been at third my whole life and it feels just like home when I’m over there,” Brown said. “Our lineup looks awesome. There are so many good hitters we don’t have any doubt when somebody goes up there.”
Wood believes the move makes both players more comfortable and the Indians a better team.
“I think we have been playing really good defense. As a rule through the scrimmages and intersquad we are throwing and catching the ball pretty good. I think with the move of Martinelli to short and Cody Brown to third it makes us better at both spots. Cody goes back to where he is most comfortable and it gives us a young, athletic guy at short stop that can make big plays,” Wood said.
Sims returns at second while Ryan Cawthon and McLeroy will share time at first. Chase Rudolph and Will Atkins, both seniors, will share the catching duties.
“I think we are very fundamentally sound throwing and catching the ball, that is our strength. The execution of the small ball is pretty good right now, I would say that is another strength,” Wood said. “Offensively, what we have got out of these scrimmages is, is some big hits. Seth has hit the ball really well and two of our guys who have started since they were sophomores have not really hit. So we have had other guys getting it done while those other two guys take their time to come around.”
On the mound Wood is expecting a big year out of senior pitcher McLeroy.
A Howard College signee, McLeroy has pitched for the Indians since 2009 and was the go-to guy last season in district.
“I think Kyle McLeroy is capable of dominating anybody and everybody he throws against, I really do. I think he is a 12-14 strikeout guy. He is also an eight-walk guy. If we get what we got out of Kyle in the scrimmages we are going to be pretty good,” Wood said.
Moore has also signed to play college baseball and gives the Indians two senior pitchers who have above average stuff. Like the outfield, the Indians have depth at pitching.
“We have got nine guys that are throwing bullpens. Out of those nine we have had a couple look good in spots. After our Burleson scrimmage I thought Kyle was nails. If we had to start district tomorrow, you would have to go with McLeroy, Nick Moore and Trent Armstrong. Right now Cameron is looking real good in a closer role. We also have Cawthon, Martinelli, Bosch and Andrew Smith who are going to throw in tournaments for sure.”
With expectations to win, the Indians are ready to start the season. Their new on-field attitude is even being noticed by the opposition.
“Coach McKinley over at Burleson, we scrimmaged them the last two years and last year just stunk it up, but after we got through scrimmaging this year he told me that we are not even in the same realm of what he saw last year. He said the whole package was better, but I am not willing to say that yet,” Wood said.
“I still want to see it some more and see the consistency on the mound. The bottom line to our season is going to be throwing strikes. If we throw strikes I think we are going to be tough to beat. I think you are going to see a different club.
“I think these guys are going to play with a little chip on their shoulder and that is what I want to see. I want to see them get after it a little more, be a little tougher and with each game I see the expectations going up more. I think people are going to see a little different club than they saw last year.”