RED OAK — If Indians head coach Tracy Wood wanted his milestone win, Red Oak High School made sure he was going to have to earn it.
He had to earn it run by run and with every single inch.
Waxahachie High School used double-digit strikeouts from Tyler Navarro, to beat the Hawks 13-6 on Tuesday at Buddy Groom Field, fending off a furious late-game rally to win their seventh consecutive game.
The win didn’t only push them to 7-2 in district 14-5A standings and give a measure of revenge against a Hawks team that beat the Indians 11-5 on March 7. It secured Wood’s 500th career win.
“Ty (Navarro) threw well and we got a big hit from Garrett Penny,” Wood said, his humble nature forcing him to postpone conversation about his accomplishment in lieu of the players’ efforts against Red Oak. “We got down a little, but something that sticks out to me is how the game comes back to you. Gabe (Torres) makes an error that extends the inning, but the ball came back to him and he rolls a double play and we’re out of it.”
His praise for both Torres’ resilience and skill on the field and Navarro’s savvy on the mound was well deserved. Torres made his first start in more than four games and the Indians junior fireballer didn’t allow a hit until the bottom of the third inning and struck out 10 batters, including seven in the first four innings, and he held the Hawks scoreless until the seventh and final inning.
“I think the way they played during the end of the game is a great example of how, if you keep grinding and working, the game can and will come back to you,” Wood continued.
Torres’ .667 fielding percentage was fifth-highest of the 10 athletes who played defense on Tuesday in spite of his lone error.
Navarro finished the game with his third win of the season, keeping his district earned run average at below 1.7 despite Red Oak’s run outburst. His 1.670 ERA is second to sophomore Trevor Mott (1.31) in terms of players who have played three games or more.
His 33 punch-outs, followed closely by only Jackson Leath (30), lead the Indians this season and account for 25 percent of the WHS’ strikeout totals.
“When you’re striking people out and not letting them put the ball in play, there’s no room for error,” the Navarro said. “I’m glad we could help him get his 500th win. If we do what we need to do and play smart, clean baseball there will be more wins and we may win out (in district play).”
Navarro, his arm wrapped in ice and mood still in the throes of in-game mode, deferred praise for the win away from himself and toward a defense that was key during the crucial 4-6-3 double play that ended ROHS’ hopes and sealed the game for the Indians.
“I think our defense played well — we may have had one or two errors — flushing a lot of the chances Red Oak had late in the game,” he continued. “That was a huge double play at the end of the game.”
That same defense nearly crumbled behind the live bats of junior Austin Dennie and senior Jason Sifuentez, who had back-to-back hits in the seventh inning and junior Brandon Gibson, whose single and subsequent score closed the gap to one run.
Despite the slight defensive hiccup, Wood agreed with Navarro that they and the Indians could make an improbable run if the right cards fall into place.
“I’m already moving toward win No. 501. We’ve got to focus on Summit. We had a war with them last time and I expect no different on Friday,” Wood said, noting their matchup against a Mansfield Summit High School with only one district loss at 7 p.m. on Friday at Richards Park. “We have to play them one game at a time and we can’t overlook anybody, but it’s absolutely realistic for us to win the rest of our district games. The kids have done a really good job of staying hooked up and focused on a day-to-day basis. Our kids believe.”