A three-run sixth inning provided the knockout punch the Waxahachie Indians needed Friday night at home against Mansfield.
The Tigers entered the bottom of the sixth inning up 2-1. BG Winn, Campbell Sullivan and Aaron Tesei all plated runs in the frame to complete the 4-2 come-from-behind District 7-6A win at Paul Richards Park.
Waxahachie opened the scoring in the bottom of the first inning when Peyton Graham, the Indians home run leader, executed a safety squeeze to score Campbell Sullivan from third.
Mansfield later worked Waxahachie starting pitcher Colton Lee over for two runs in a laborious fourth inning.
Lee issued two one-out walks and a single to load the bases before eventually walking home the tying run on five pitches. Caleb Stanley then singled into left field to plate the go-ahead run.
Lee induced a double-play groundout to Graham at short for an easy 6-3 putaway to end the inning with the Indians trailing, 2-1.
The fourth inning proved to be the lone blemish on Lee's evening. He recorded a no-decision after five innings of work with four strikeouts, three walks and two earned runs allowed on four hits.
"Colton was good enough and kept us in it, and he did it without a curveball all night long," Waxahachie head coach Tracy Wood said after the game. "We got some big hits. The first couple of innings we hit some balls hard but hit them right at them. They made all of the plays early and then, there late, they didn’t make those plays, and we made them pay for it. I am proud of our guys and how they got after it.”
Jordy Fay came on in relief of Lee in the top of the sixth inning and worked his way out of a runners-on-the-corners jam to keep the deficit at one run.
In the bottom half of the frame, the Indians quickly worked the bases loaded after Xavian Thompson drew a five-pitch walk, ultimately chasing the Mansfield starter, Cameron Loy, from the ballgame.
Loy ended his night with six strikeouts, five walks and five hits scattered across 5.1 innings. He had allowed just one run at the time of his exit — that would soon change.
Hogan Hargrove came on for the Tigers in relief with a one-run lead, 2-1, and Winn at the plate with one out.
The junior delivered.
Winn fouled off three consecutive pitches and then produced a sacrifice fly-out just deep enough into left field to score Casey Kelly.
“I watched him (Hargrove) warm up, and he was having trouble finding the zone, so my first intention was to go up there and make him throw me a strike," Winn recalled. "After he had thrown two, I knew that I had to do something with the infield in and my goal was just to put the bat on the ball and to get it past the infield. I wanted to do whatever I could to help the team win.”
Winn, who has swung the hottest bat for the Tribe during 7-6A play, pointed to a few small adjustments with his swing mechanics and the “build up before the game” for his recent success.
“I am just seeing the ball a lot better than I did and I feel like I am more relaxed up there,” he added.
“That was a grinding AB right there. He went down in the count and did a fantastic job,” the Indians skipper said. “We talked for a long time during the time out, because BG is for sure our best bunter, so we talked about squeezing right there. But he would’ve had to go to the right side to do it, so I decided to let him hit, and it paid off. He did a good job.”
Sullivan followed two pitches later by lining a fastball down the third-base line and off of the third baseman’s glove to score pinch runner Bryson Campbell. Wood had made the decision to bring the fleet-footed Campbell on to run for first baseman DJ Hollywood, which paid off as he scored easily from second base.
Waxahachie added a third run when the Mansfield shortstop short-hopped a throw to first on a Tesei ground ball, scoring Thompson from third for a two-run Waxahachie lead after six innings, 4-2.
Fay needed just seven pitches to quickly induce three ground balls and pick up the 4-2 Waxahachie win.
“What was big was the way we competed and the way we battled back," Wood said. "That is going to make us a better baseball team. We are not going to flinch when we get into those kinds of games again. I am proud of them and they did a great job."
"[...] Tonight, I know we had two strikeouts looking, and we have been really hammering on that to fix that — we want to compete. I just think we have a little confidence right now at the plate,” Wood continued as he pointed to a rubber home plate sitting in the on-deck circle that reads “Hunt FBs” in black sharpie. ”We are sitting on fastballs. I am proud of them. We will see what’s going on in the district, but we know we've at least got six baseball games left.”
The victory improved the Indians to 12-8-1 on the season and 6-2 in 7-6A action.
Waxahachie has yet to split a district series after having now taken both games against Cedar Hill, DeSoto and Mansfield, while also being swept this past week by Mansfield Lake Ridge.
The Eagles fell to Cedar Hill on Tuesday, 3-2, and then rebounded for an 8-3 win Friday to remain perched atop the 7-6A standings — tied with Waxahachie and Grand Prairie.
Lake Ridge ends the week with a 16-6 overall mark and a 6-2 record in 7-6A, having lost to Cedar Hill and (13-9, 5-3) South Grand Prairie.
Grand Prairie is 15-7 on the season and 6-2 in district play.
Mansfield is currently on the outside of the playoff picture with a 4-4 mark. The Tigers are followed by (16-6, 3-5) Cedar Hill, (5-16, 2-6) Mansfield Summit and (5-13-1, 0-8) DeSoto.
The Indians return to action for a two-game series against Grand Prairie on Tuesday and Friday, with the first game at home. Both games are set for a 7 p.m. first pitch.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith