For the third straight year, the Waxahachie baseball team is going to the playoffs as the third seed from the district.
The team has reached at least the third round of the playoffs the last three years and has faced a different first round opponent each season.
This year, the Indians (20-9, 10-4 and third place in 15-4A) will take on Lindale (16-7-2, 7-3 and second place in 16-5A) in a best-of-three series.
Game one will be at 7:30 p.m. tonight in Lindale. The teams will then come to Waxahachie on Saturday for a possible doubleheader. Game two will start at 1 p.m. and game three, if necessary, will begin 30 minutes after game two.
Waxahachie enters the playoffs on a five-game winning streak and having gone (6-1) in the second half of district play.
“This is the time of year that you love. We’re playing good baseball right now,” Waxahachie baseball coach Tracy Wood said. “We feel good about ourselves, but Lindale is a good baseball team. They are in a district with Whitehouse, who went to the state tournament last year, and Corsicana, who is a team we know very well.”
Lindale had a chance at winning the district title, but lost its regular season finale to Nacogdoches 1-0 to end the year in the No. 2 seed. Waxahachie has been locked into the No. 3 seed since beating Ennis on the road March 22.
The Indians haven’t seen a lot of left-handed pitching, but the Eagle’s ace Sam Sitton is a southpaw that can throw almost 80 mph and is accurate.
“He throws to contact a lot. I think the best comparison for him is the pitcher we saw the first time against Mansfield Legacy,” Wood said. “He throws well, hits his spots, he’s not a big strikeout guy, but I think if we go chase he can be a big strikeout guy. He’s not going to throw it by you. He’s going to work the outside.”
In that first Legacy match up, the Indians lost 9-4. However, that game got out of hand early when the Broncos scored eight runs in one inning.
Waxahachie will need to use patience to make sure the batters get pitches they can handle against the precise Sitton.
“We’re going to have to do a good job of being patient and going the other way,” Wood said. “We have to be patient and not try and pull the ball. We have to have good approaches against him. Our approach at the plate is going to be real critical.”
This game doesn’t figures to be a pitching duel as Waxahachie will be sending ace Alex Engelhardt to the mound in game one.
“I think Alex is a great example of a guy that throws strikes,” Wood said. “He throws 82-84 miles an hour and he keeps it in the zone. The guys play good defense behind him too.”
Engelhardt has earned five wins to just one loss in district play. The loss came at the hands of Mansfield Summit 1-0. The Jaguars mustered just two hits off of Engelhardt in that contest, but a first-inning sacrifice fly resulted in the game’s only score.
Waxahachie mustered just one hit in that game, but the Indians have never needed much offense to get the job done in the playoffs. Don’t expect that recipe to change much this year.
“If we get guys on, we’re going to find out if they know how to defend the small ball,” Wood said. “The key for us is to throw strikes, play defense and be patient at the plate.”
When the teams come to Waxahachie, the Indians will use Tyler Johnson on the mound in game two and probably Jake Loose in game three, if necessary. But if the Indians need Loose in game two to try and win the series right there, Wood won’t be afraid to put him out there. Both of them, as well as Eric Cadena and Colton Lott, pitched well in the regular season finale against Summit, a 9-3 win March 25.
“Cadena and Lott have done a good job. Jason Waldeck has also thrown well,” Wood said. “I used them last week so they could get a little experience under the lights. By the time this is all said and done, they all are going to have to do their part.”