CROWLEY — Thanks to a gem from a right-handed sophomore, the Waxahachie Indian baseball program can celebrate its first district championship in a decade. The title is also the second for Waxahachie head coach Tracy Wood, who was the skipper when the Tribe last won a district championship in 2008.
The Indians made the most of their four hits Saturday at Crowley High School while sophomore Will Morgan tossed six innings of two-hit baseball in the 3-0 win over Mansfield Legacy in the one-game playoff.
"It is sweet. But to be honest, we just don't talk about district titles. We just want to be playing our best baseball at the end of the season, getting in and seeing what we can do," Wood said.
"[…] But, it is exciting to win a district title for sure," Wood added. "That just means that you were playing good baseball at the right time. That is the key to all of the stuff right here, you have to be playing good baseball at the right time and I think we are. We played really well last night and I think we are hooked up. I think we got some good senior leadership and we got some young guys that are excited about playing. We are ready to go."
According to Wood, the decision to start Morgan on the mound in the pivotal game was not made until early Saturday morning. Wood said after the 8-2 win Friday night against Mansfield Lake Ridge that the coaching staff had three names of potential starting pitchers on the board in the clubhouse at Paul Richards Park.
After the bus had arrived back home in Waxahachie, Wood brought all three Indians into the office and told them, "One of you three is going to start, but I'm going to sleep on it."
"[Will] made us coaches look like geniuses," smiled Wood as he took a swig from his diet Dr Pepper in the Crowley dugout. "This morning we talked about it and wanted Will to get some work and I thought he was fantastic. He also gives us some options. I just thought he did a really good job."
Morgan (2-0, 0.51 ERA) entered the game having not appeared on the mound for the varsity ballclub since March 11 when he tossed one perfect inning against North Forney. In fact, the start was just his second of the season for the Indians with the only other outing coming March 3 against Trinity.
But on Saturday afternoon, the sophomore righty was in the zone and never once allowed the game to become bigger than it needed to be during his six innings of two-hit baseball with six strikeouts and three walks.
First baseman Ryan Allen served as the catalyst for all three Indian runs with two bases-loaded walks and a third-inning sacrifice fly to left field.
"Overall, we did a good job of taking what they gave us like when we got a cheap run with the bases loaded," Wood said, "but we did a great job of not chasing and that's the key to that whole story right there. They threw a whole lot of balls down and we didn't chase them."
Waxahachie (23-6) will now face Granbury, the No. 4 seed from District 9-5A, in the 5A Bi-District Championship. The two head coaches flipped for home-field advantage after the Indian win Saturday in Crowley. Game one is set for a 7:30 p.m. first pitch Friday in Granbury. Game two will start at 2 p.m. on Saturday in Waxahachie, with game three, if necessary, to begin 30 minutes after the conclusion of game two.
The Indians knew, at worst, they had clinched the No. 2 seed in district play before ever boarding the yellow dog Friday afternoon for the final regularly scheduled game of the 2017 baseball season. Waxahachie also knew that with a win over Mansfield Lake Ridge they would, at worst, play in a one-game playoff against Mansfield Legacy for the District 10-5A crown.
While the eyes of many in attendance at scrolled through Twitter feeds for scoring updates from Red Oak to see how the games between the Hawks and Broncos was playing out, the Indians were clearly focused on the task at hand. Behind what head coach Tracy Wood classified as a “gutsy” performance by starting pitcher Levi David and the hot stick of Tyler Navarro, (22-6, 11-3) Waxahachie thumped the host Eagles of (13-13-2, 7-7) Mansfield Lake Ridge, 8-2.
A few minutes later, Mansfield Legacy completed a 7-0 win against Red Oak to force the Saturday showdown.
"I was happy with the way we competed in grounded, especially Levi. He had to get some stuff out because it wasn't easy,” Wood said. “There was nothing easy about that. I thought some stuff when against us, like some calls and stuff like that. But he grinded, and I was really proud of the way he stuck with it. The score wasn't indicative of how that game went, really.”
Through four innings, neither the Indians nor the Eagles could find the answer to scoring puzzle at the plate while David and Brandon Uhse cruised on the bump.
Then, after David picked up two of his game-high eight strikeouts in the bottom of the fourth inning, the spark came to the Indian offense.
With two outs in the top of the fifth inning, Joey Trevino drew a five-pitch walk and Trey Thompson snuck a single into left field to put runners on first and second. That was when Navarro drilled a doubled into the right-center-field gap for the first two of his game-high three RBIs.
The two-bagger opened the floodgates for a Peyton Graham double, Trevin Robinson single and David single that pushed the Indians to a 5-0 lead.
“Hitting is contagious, and once we got going, we got comfortable and then I thought we really got after it. Nobody was bigger than Ty [Navarro] tonight,” Wood said. “He was huge and that was a big AB right there. He has been struggling a bit at times, but I'm really proud of him and the way he has grinded and stayed with it and kept going. But moving forward, we are going to need more than one guy."
Waxahachie scratched three more runs in the sixth inning with a little of the small ball that Wood and his ball clubs have grown synonymous with throughout his decade-long tenure in Waxahachie. After a single and error, three sacrifice bunts and a Trevino single put the game firmly in the grasp of the Tribe.
David (5-1, 0.90 ERA) was pulled after six innings of work where he struck out eight, walked four and allowed just one hit.
"I'm just glad with the way we competed, I really am, and I thought we had some really good approaches and we hit some balls hard all night long,” Wood said. “We had some loud outs and their outfield ran some stuff down. They are pretty good defensively, but we finally hit some balls they couldn't run down. I'm really happy with the way we competed and I really like our baseball team right now."
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith