Central Heights Reaches State Championship Game With Shutout Win Over Whitesboro
ROUND ROCK — Grayson Rodriguez’s junior pitching season ended Wednesday under the best conditions possible.
The Texas A&M verbal commitment threw a 14-strikeout, complete game, two-hit shutout in Central Height’s 7-0 rout of Whitesboro in the Class 3A state semifinals at Dell Diamond. Whitesboro entered the meeting having put away the past three East Texas teams it faced in Edgewood, New Diana and Beckville.
Rodriguez did not allow a Whitesboro runner beyond second base, and he dealt with back-to-back fielding errors at a point in the game.
The Blue Devils’ reward is a date with Wall in the 3A state championship game Thursday. First pitch is scheduled for noon.
“Just trusting the guys, they came out and did their jobs,” Rodriguez said. “Rowan (Arrant) hit great. I couldn’t have asked for anything better. I just threw strikes and let my guys do all the work.”
Dell Diamond, an 11,631-seat Triple-A ballpark, didn’t cause Central Heights (36-2-1) any butterflies.
Cade McCarty got on base with one out in the bottom first and Rodriguez reached in spite of striking out when the Whitesboro first baseman dropped a third strike in the dirt. Arrant doubled McCarty as well as courtesy runner Clayton Ray in for a permanent lead.
That was enough with Rodriguez humming. He struck out the entire side in the top of the first and never really lost steam on the way to a 106-pitch day.
Whitesboro (28-9) broke up any notion of a no-hitter with opposing starter Cayden Cobb’s second-inning looper to right field. Scout Sanders reached base with one out, pushing Cobb to scoring position.
Rodriguez struck out the next two batters.
The pitcher never created real trouble for himself again, but the Central Heights defense lapsed momentarily in the fourth. A one-out fly ball was dropped and the next batter reached on a ball an infielder booted.
Rodriguez induced a fly ball from there and got the third out via a strikeout looking on a 1-2 count.
Sanders reached on a walk in the seventh. No Whitesboro players got on the base paths in the fifth or sixth while Central Heights added a run in the bottom fourth and pairs of runs in the fifth and sixth innings to reach the final game of the 3A season.
“Just the same things as today, relax and play baseball,” Central Heights coach Travis Jackson said when asked what the championship message is for his team. “We’ve got one more, and this is what we’ve been shooting for all year long.”
The Blue Devils took in the Gateway-Wall semifinal game before returning to the team hotel. They won’t be on a diamond again until playing for all of the state’s marbles.
Rodriguez will play shortstop in the championship tilt. Even if he felt like he could pitch, he only has four throws left in his tournament pitch count.
Central Heights’ starter for the game will be Arrant, who played third base Wednesday.
The squad will be playing for its first state championship since 2004.
“It’s a great feeling,” Rodriguez said. “Our school has a rich baseball history. To carry something like this out and to reach the state championship is a great thing.”
Nacogdoches Central Heights 7, Whitesboro 0
Class 3A State Semifinal
At Dell Diamond, Round Rock
Whitesboro 000 000 0 — 0 2 1
Central Heights 200 1022 X — 7 9 3
Pitchers and catchers
- Whitesboro: Cayden Cobb, Christian Goedecke (5) and Kade Brewer
- Central Heights: Grayson Rodriguez and Cade Watson
WP — Rodriguez
LP — Cobb
Central Heights: Rowan Arrant