Whitehouse’s Feel-Good Story Is On The Line When Regional Championship Series Resumes Today
TYLER -- Reaching the regional championship round is not something to shrug off.
Come playoff time next year, however, most local coaches will want to talk about a Whitehouse team that reached the state tournament after finishing fourth in its district. Rather than a team that reached the final round of regional competition.
The Wildcats are in trouble after dropping a 5-3 Game 1 contest to Lufkin in the Class 5A Region II championship round. No matter what happens from here, Thursday's contest at a packed Mike Carter Field was the very last loss Whitehouse can still survive.
Head coach Derrick Jenkins and company need to win two games today, starting with Game 2 at noon back at Mike Carter Field. If they reach the single elimination state tournament for the semifinal and championship rounds, one loss will bounce them back home.
"We know this," a rather upbeat Jenkins said immediately following the loss. "We gave away a ballgame today. For us, it's just (Ryan) Walls has to step up on the mound in the first game and get a win to get to Game 3. Then, see what happens."
Thursday's defeat snapped a seven-game winning streak in the playoffs. To start that span, Whitehouse came back from a Game 1 loss against Texas High in the bi-district round for a best-of-three series victory.
That started a run where the Wildcats knocked out three district champions, including Texas High, in four rounds of competition.
But Lufkin, a District 16-5A mate of Whitehouse's and the second place finisher from the league, seems to have its number. Lufkin's win elevated it to 3-0 against Jenkins' club this year, dating back to two regular season games.
All three games have been tight. The game in Lufkin was won on a walk off hit.
Much like the first meeting between the two squads, in Whitehouse, a ghastly defensive inning sunk the Wildcats.
Lufkin built a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third with runners that all reached base safely with two outs in the frame.
From there, with the bases loaded, a throwing error on what should have been a simple infield groundout allowed two more runners in for a 4-0 advantage. Then an errant pickoff throw that got behind second base allowed a fifth runner home.
Whitehouse responded with three runs in the top of the fourth to close scoring in the 5-3 game. Three runs given up on errors with two outs in the third was the difference.
Lufkin recorded four hits but benefitted from seven walks and three hit batsmen in addition to the runner that reached on error. The Wildcats got seven hits and drew four walks, but they stranded six runners in scoring position in the meeting.
"We have to get moving,"Jenkins said, "Hopefully, we'll put this in the past pretty quickly."
Walls will start Game 2. He clinched the team's series against Wylie last week and is two weeks to the day removed from a two-hitter against Corsicana in a one-game regional quarterfinal series.
Both of his past two starts were complete games.
If Whitehouse wins Game 2, Patty Miner will get the nod for Game 3.
Clayton Pruitt, primarily a right fielder, threw 53 pitches in two innings of relief work. He's an option later in Game 3.
Lufkin got 5 2/3 innings out of starting pitcher Christian Stephens. Kolten Eberlan closed the game and is nowhere near his limit.
Logan Lair will start Game 2 for Lufkin. He threw six scoreless innings against Mesquite Poteet last week in a series-clinching win.
There are some logistical complications awaiting the two teams through the remainder of the series. Today's weather forecast is not ideal and Mike Carter Field won't be available Saturday should the games be postponed.
The ballpark is booked for a youth tournament Saturday morning and also will serve as a staging area for John Tyler and Tyler Lee's graduation ceremonies this evening and once again Saturday evening at the adjacent Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.
Lindale I.S.D. Baseball Complex, with its turf field and as a relatively neutral location, is a possible option if any portions of the games get postponed.
If bad weather continues Saturday, Whitehouse and Lufkin will likely ask the University Interscholastic League for a waiver to play Sunday ahead of the Class 5A state tournament beginning Thursday at Dell Diamond in Round Rock.
"I tell people all the time, you can't worry about the weather," Jenkins said. "The weather is going to do what it does. If it rains (today), we'll just try to find somewhere Saturday and just go from there."