WHITEHOUSE -- Throwing strikes and playing good defense. It sounds simple enough, but finding those attributes working in tandem is often difficult in baseball.

Hunter McClellan and the Nacogdoches Dragons rode that formula to a big win Tuesday night, inching them closer to the District 16-4A championship.

McClellan tossed a one-hit shutout, leading the Dragons to a 2-0 win over Whitehouse, which kept Nacogdoches (17-4, 7-1) one game up on the rest of the district with two games remaining.

"Being the driver's seat is kinda hard because -- we control our own destiny true enough -- but we still have to go out and perform," said Nacogdoches coach Wayne Williams. "They've been performing well the last couple of games and that's all I can ask for."

McClellan silenced the Whitehouse bats all night long, allowing just three baserunners for the game. He finished with seven strikeouts, one walk and one hit batter, needing only 86 pitches to get through seven innings.

"I've been knowing all year that Hunter can throw strikes," Williams said. "As long he doesn't give them free bases, then we're in good shape because we play solid defense. As long as we're around the plate, we're good. We've been doing good all year with pitchers throwing strikes; that's just been our calling card -- good defense and pitchers that can throw strikes."

Nacogdoches was able to scratch out a couple of runs in the middle innings to keep the pressure on Whitehouse (19-5, 4-4), which was mathematically eliminated from district championship contention with the loss.

"We've just got to change the approach," said Whitehouse coach Derrick Jenkins, who led the Wildcats to the Class 4A state tournament a season ago. "It doesn't seem like to me there's a whole lot of approach at the plate to be productive. We're up there swinging, taking our hacks and coming back (into the dugout). We've got to change that. We've got two guys on the mound that can get anybody out, but if you can't score any runs -- we had one hit in the game and I think we hit three balls to the outfield today -- it's going to be hard to beat anybody."

With the game scoreless through three innings, Nacogdoches finally broke through against Whitehouse starting pitcher Ryan Cheatham. Reed Watson doubled with one out, moved to third on a fielding error and scored on Tucker Irwin's groundout to second.

The Dragons got another run in the fifth. Will Boozer tripled down the right-field line with two outs, and came around to score when Watson beat out an infield single with the bases loaded.

That was all McClellan needed, as the junior right-hander retired 14 of the last 15 batters he faced. The only one to reach was Patrick Mahomes, who was hit by a pitch to lead off the bottom of the seventh.

"It's kinda the same things (we've struggled with) all year long," Jenkins said. "We had the same at-bats every at-bat. I'm not seeing a lot of change from at-bat to at-bat. And when a guy gets in a rhythm and realizes what you're doing and the adjustments you're not making, he can have a pretty easy ballgame. (McClellan) threw well. I thought he spotted the fastball up, he threw good off-speed, I thought he threw the change-up well. But when you don't make adjustments and you don't do anything different at the plate, it makes a guy's job pretty easy."

Cheatham suffered the loss, despite allowing just two runs (one earned) on five hits in five innings.

"He threw well today," Jenkins said of Cheatham. "He threw inside, he threw outside, he threw the change-up a little bit. He threw three pitches for strikes … he gave up two runs and one earned. Two runs (allowed) in 4A baseball, you should win every ballgame you play."

Nacogdoches is one game up on Lindale and two games clear of Corsicana with two games remaining -- John Tyler at home on Friday and the following Friday at Lindale.

"We control our own destiny, so as long as we take care of business we're alright," Williams said. "Beating a team like (Whitehouse) -- a state-ranked team starting the year -- this is the kind of team we'll see in the playoffs. We'll see good pitching like we saw tonight. We've just got to be able to execute at the plate and we've got to be able to make plays behind our pitchers."

Whitehouse hosts Corsicana on Friday night before closing out the regular season next Friday at John Tyler.

Nacogdoches 2, Whitehouse 0

District 16-4A Baseball

Nacogdoches            000   110   0   --   2   6   0
Whitehouse               000   000   0   --   0   1   1

Pitchers and catchers
  • Nacogdoches: Hunter McClellan and Dakota Phillips.
  • Whitehouse: Ryan Cheatham, Peyton Conser (6) and Rex Swinney.

 

WP -- McClellan.
LP -- Cheatham.

 

Doubles
  • Nacogdoches: Reed Watson.

 

Triples
  • Nacogdoches: Will Boozer