Whitehouse’s Pitching Duo of Patrick Mahomes + Ryan Cheatham Has Wildcats Two Wins From State Title
There's something to be said for players knowing their roles. It can often make the difference between good and great teams.
There are no more defined roles on the Whitehouse baseball team than the Wildcats' No. 1 and No. 2 starting pitchers. Juniors Patrick Mahomes and Ryan Cheatham fit like a glove and are the driving forces behind Whitehouse's first state-tournament appearance.
The duo has made a combined 10 starts in the playoffs, and Whitehouse has won all 10 games. If the pattern continues this week, the Wildcats will be celebrating a Class 4A state championship.
"Those guys are big-game pitchers; the bigger the game, the better they are," said Whitehouse coach Derrick Jenkins. "They throw multiple pitches for strikes, they'll throw off-speed for a strike and they'll throw fastball for a strike. Right now, they realize there is no next round, that this is it."
Mahomes (9-1, 2.22 ERA), the son of former Major League pitcher Pat Mahomes, has been the Game 1 starter through the playoffs, setting the tone for Whitehouse's five consecutive series sweeps.
"My mindset is to get those pre-game jitters out of the way," said Mahomes, who has committed to play both football and baseball at Texas Tech. "I know if I can get through those first few innings, my team will come back and score runs like we've done all year. My job is to get that momentum with a win in Game 1 and I know Cheatham will get the second game the next day."
Mahomes' confidence is backed up by Cheatham's numbers, which include a perfect 13-0 record on the year.
Cheatham relishes picking up where his big-name teammate leaves off.
"Everybody always talks about Patrick, and there's nothing wrong with that," Cheatham said. "He's my friend and he definitely deserves all the attention. But it gives me motivation and the mentality to show them I can play."
Mahomes is coming off one of his most impressive outings of the season. He struck out eight and allowed just one hit in a complete-game shutout of Frisco Liberty in Game 1 of their 4A Region II championship series, needing only 75 pitches to do it.
"I felt really good," Mahomes said of his last performance. "I threw a lot of strikes. And if I had one problem I needed to fix, that was it. I had a good fastball and they were kinda helping me out swinging at a lot of first pitches and I was getting some ground-ball outs. My slider was working real well, and I broke my change-up out late."
Jenkins said one of the biggest reasons for Mahomes' success is his unpredictability.
"He's a different kid every time," the third-year Wildcats coach said. "He figures out what's working that day and stays with it. And it's different every time, which makes him hard to prepare for when you don't what you're going to see."
Cheatham, on the other hand, establishes a game plan and rarely deviates.
"He's a true pitcher," Jenkins said of Cheatham. "He spots up, in and out and up and down. He throws a great slider, for a strike and he gets people to chase. He's not going to strike a lot of guys out, but he's going to throw strikes and get grounders for the defense to make a play every time."
Added Mahomes: "I think he'll end up being a D-I pitcher for sure and maybe have a chance to pitch in professional baseball. I know he knows how to compete, and I know he knows how to win."
Winning is all Whitehouse has done in the postseason. The fact that the Wildcats have scored at least six runs in all 10 playoff games has made the jobs of Mahomes and Cheatham even easier.
"It's amazing to know I don't have to pitch perfect," Mahomes said. "With our offense, I can give up two or three runs and we can still get a win. We have a great offense that can hit the ball all the way up and down the lineup. We always seem to come through with a big inning."
Jenkins believes the Whitehouse hitters benefit just as much as his pitchers.
"To have those two guys, it takes the pressure of the offense a little bit," he said. "As an offense, you're a little more relaxed. We can say, 'if we can get four or five runs today, we're probably going to win.' It's pretty nice."
Cheatham said the production on the mound is not achieved through talent alone. A little homework is required.
"We always have two coaches that go scout the other team so Patrick knows what to expect going in," Cheatham said. "And I kinda go off Patrick, watching what he does with them. Then he'll come to me and we'll have a good little talk about how to attack their team."
Mahomes' name-recognition and big-league bloodlines have often resulted in opponents saving their No. 1 pitcher for Game 2. And that's just fine with Cheatham.
"Most times, teams probably are not expecting to beat Patrick in Game 1, and they'll try to go get a win in Game 2," Cheatham said. "Knowing that they're going to try their hardest, makes me work to be the best and get my team a win."
So far, so good.
Jenkins said he will likely wait until Wednesday before deciding on a starting pitcher for Whitehouse's (31-8) semifinal against Corpus Christi Moody (32-6-1), which is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday from Round Rock's Dell Diamond. The winner will face either Wichita Falls Rider (32-8) or Tomball (33-4) in the state final at 7 p.m. Friday.