The Waxahachie baseball team’s playoff run started with a big win Thursday night.
The team had to start on the road for game one of a best-of-three series against Lindale and managed a 3-0 victory.
Waxahachie and Lindale finished their series Saturday afternoon at Richards Park. To see how the Indians fared, visit www.waxahachietx.com or pick up Tuesday’s Waxahachie Daily Light.
Getting the first win on the road was huge because the team felt good coming hom needing just one win to advance.
“We’re going to go try and win it early,” Waxahachie baseball coach Tracy Wood said. “I’ll be really aggressive if I have to be.”
The Indians were definitely aggressive on the base paths Thursday against Lindale as they got all three of their runs thanks to small ball and making the Eagles make plays.
Junior shortstop Tanner Salik got the offense started for the Indians in the third inning thanks to a hustle double to right field. It looked like it was going to be just a single, but he never slowed down and the ball took a beneficial hop and he was able to motor into second base.
Now that he was in scoring position, there was no doubt Wood was going to get him home anyway he could. Two batters later, Alec Sanchez singled to left field and Wood waved Salik home despite the outfielder playing shallow. The outfielder came up with the ball clean and fired home and could have made a play on Salik at the plate, but the throw was cut off and the Indians took a 1-0 lead.
“I think it would have been a play,” Wood said of the cut off throw. “But you can’t say he would have been out because they had to throw and catch it. At the end of the day, you’ve got to make them throw and catch it.”
That was enough offense for senior pitcher Alex Engelhardt as he struck out 10 Eagles in his fourth complete game shut out since March 25.
“He’s been sharper than he was in that game. He walked the lead off a couple times and they got guys on, but he found it,” Wood said. “He competed and got himself out of a jam. They had bases loaded and we got a pop up and they had a couple guys on, but he worked out of it.”
Lindale got the lead off runner on four of the first five innings, but each time he was left on base. In the first inning, a lead off walk ended with him on thrid base. In the third, a lead off single led to a pick off. In the fourth, a lead off single led to a caught stealing. In the fifth, the first two batters got on, but then Engelhardt struck out the next three batters to end the inning.
He struck out the final batter of the game to secure the victory and put the Indians a win away from round two.
While he didn’t need more than one run, the Indians tacked on two more in the fifth thanks to small ball and a little help from Lindale.
Salik led off with a walk and stole second base. Conner Manes drew a walk to get two runners on with no outs. Sanchez tried to bunt them over with a sacrifice, but his bunt was so perfect that it turned out to be an infield single. The third baseman still tried to force a late throw and it wound up in right field. The errant throw allowed Salik to race all the way home and make it 2-0. Maines raced into third and Sanchez took second base on the error.
Waxahachie wanted to get at least one more run home so junior catcher Taylor Bright dropped a squeeze bunt down and Maines scored to make it 3-0.
“We exposed them a bit with the small ball,” Wood said. “When you are putting up zeros, you’re going to win a lot of ballgames. That’s the kind of game we play and that’s the kind of game I’m totally comfortable coaching in.”
It’s easy to throw up zeros when you are getting some incredible defensive play behind the pitcher.
Along with scoring twice, Salik made an incredible play to save a run in the first inning.
“I’m not going to say that play went unnoticed, but if he doesn’t make that play, it’s probably a different ballgame,” Wood said.
Senior centerfielder Sammy Ernst also had to make a long run and make a leaping grab to track down a flyball in the first inning that kept the Eagles off the scoreboard.
“He had to go back and get that one right off the wall,” Wood said. “I didn’t realize the wind was blowing that much, but then (Brittan) Cupp hit one to right field that just kept going and going before their outfielder had to make a grab at the wall.”
Waxahachie sent senior pitcher Tyler Johnson to the mound in game two Saturday afternoon and fellow senior hurler Jake Loose was also available for game two in relief or to start game three. If either of them managed to get the win and the Indians (21-9) are still playing, they will take on Mount Pleasant in round two.
The Tigers advanced thanks to a 1-0 win against Wylie East in a one-game playoff Friday night. The two teams could play as early as Thursday.