Whitehouse Completes Class 4A Region II Championship Sweep of Frisco Liberty to Clinch State Baseball Tournament Berth
TYLER -- People who have followed Whitehouse's baseball program in 2013 know the Wildcats possess a certain swagger.
The Wildcats have definitely backed it up.
Whitehouse completed a two-game sweep of Frisco Liberty on Friday night, leaning on right-handed starting pitcher Ryan Cheatham and a fast start at the plate in a 6-1 Game 2 victory that propels the Wildcats to the Class 4A state tournament for the first time in school history.
The Class 4A Region II championship series sweep was simply more of the same for the Wildcats (31-8), who went an undefeated 10-0 in five rounds of Region II competition en route to the state tournament berth. Round Rock's Dell Diamond hosts the 4A state tournament with semifinals scheduled for 4 and 7 p.m. Thursday.
Cheatham improved to 13-0 this season with a six-inning performance. He struck out five, walked four, and allowed a lone fourth-inning run while scattering five hits.
Combine Cheatham's performance with a Whitehouse offense that scored all six of its runs in the first three innings to put pressure on a Liberty team (26-12-2) already facing a series deficit, and the recipe for a state tournament clincher was complete.
"It's indescribable," said Cheatham of the state tournament berth. "It's a dream come true to get to get there with this team. They feel like a family. It feels great."
Cheatham navigated out of a two-out, bases-loaded situation in the top of the second before a 6-2 fielder's choice ended Liberty's third-inning threat. A pair of two-out singles, the first of which from Justin Crider drove in Liberty's only run, were all the damage the Redhawks could muster.
"Working hard and knowing the situation" helped Cheatham get through the early jams, he said. "Once you know you're getting close to winning, it makes it easier to (go after hitters)."
Whitehouse coach Derrick Jenkins knew he could get a series-clinching performance from Cheatham.
"He threw strikes from the get-go. He walks in and throws strikes and gets ground balls to the defense to make great plays behind him," said Jenkins, who took White Oak to the Class 2A state tournament in 2010. "When he sees guys making plays behind him he's gonna be a good pitcher every day."
Jenkins emphasized the importance of getting an early lead.
Michael Nuon turned a bad-hop single into a hustle double on the first at-bat of the bottom of the first. Three batters later, Patrick Mahomes, who pitched a complete-game shutout in Thursday's 6-0 Game 1 victory, drove in Nuon with a sacrifice fly to right field. Whitehouse added three two-out, second-inning runs, including an Eric Munoz RBI single, to stretch its lead to 4-0.
That lead grew to 6-0 when Cheatham, who was 2-for-2 with a walk, followed Rex Swinney's RBI single with an RBI double in the bottom of the third.
"We talked about (getting ahead early) because we looked up and said after yesterday (winning) 6-0, you come in today and get a big lead early, they can't do the things they wanna do," Jenkins said. "You kinda put them out of their game plan. They like to run bases, they like to hit singles and bunt a little bit. They can't do those things if you take a big lead. ... Cheatham kinda got on a roll, and it was kinda over."
Munoz was 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run. Nuon, who pitched the seventh, scored twice from the leadoff spot. Jake Parker singled once and scored once.
Liberty put two runners on base in the top of the seventh before Nuon induced a 4-6-3 game-ending double play to clinch the Region II crown.
Whitehouse's fast start chased Liberty starter Robby Evans after two innings. Evans (5-2) allowed four runs on three hits with one strikeout and four walks. Josh Ryan relieved him in the third and pitched the remaining four innings, yielding two runs on four hits with six strikeouts and one walk.
Mahomes, who is 9-1 on the mound and will likely start the Wildcats' state semifinal game next week, said his team would enjoy realizing a goal that many pundits across the state set on Whitehouse at the beginning of the season, but come Monday, the focus will be there.
"We're hyped up right now, but once we get back to practice this Monday we're gonna be all business and we're gonna get our jobs done and go through it hard like we've been doing it since the beginning," Mahomes said. "To get to the state tournament, that was a great goal of ours to get, but we wanna get that state championship and bring that hardware back."
The winners of Thursday's 4 and 7 p.m. state semifinals play in Friday's 7 p.m. state championship game at Round Rock's Dell Diamond.
Class 4A Region II
Whitehouse 6, Frisco Liberty 1
Mike Carter Field, Tyler
Frisco Liberty (26-12-2) -- 000 100 0 -- 1 5 1
Whitehouse (31-8) -- 132 000 x -- 6 6 1
L -- Robby Evans, Josh Ryan (3rd) and Jacob Colombo
W -- Ryan Cheatham, Michael Nuon (7th) and Derek Clemons
WP -- Ryan Cheatham (13-0)
LP -- Robby Evans (5-2)
2B -- L: Jake Akin; W: Michael Nuon, Ryan Cheatham