Whitehouse’s Semifinal Loss Was What It Was + Derrick Jenkins Sees Teaching Moments
ROUND ROCK -- It was such a tough loss that it became palatable.
It won't haunt the players' sleep. It wasn't just one bad hop or one bad at-bat that cost Whitehouse a 7-0 defeat to Grapevine in the Class 5A state semifinals at Dell Diamond.
Rather, this loss laid a roadmap of areas for a young team to improve ahead of the 2017 season.
"I never expected it to happen right here," head coach Derrick Jenkins said. "I never expected those things to happen. Especially base running type stuff. We do such a good job there. But, you know, it happens. You can't sit back and second guess and blame.
"You look up and kind of say, 'Things happen. You got beat and you got beat by a team that played better than you today.' And you can live with that a little bit."
The Wildcats squandered a best-case scenario top of the first inning and then gave up four hits and four errors against 10 batters for five runs in the bottom half of the frame.
Whitehouse's first three batters all reached base safely in the opening inning. Things turned a millisecond after three-hole hitter Tanner Roach dropped a ball into shallow right field.
The lead runner got waved around third base and was gunned down at the plate by Grapevine right fielder James Wyche. It was such a good throw to catcher Tanner Gibson that it beat the runner two steps ahead of a slide attempt.
Then, runner's interference at second base ended the half-inning.
Even after being dealt a first blow, Grapevine still had to bat its way to victory.
Leadoff hitter Connor Neuman grounded through a gap on Whitehouse's third pitch of the contest. The next batter rallied back from an 0-2 count to a 2-2 situation ahead of getting plunked before starting pitcher Kyle Flamm singled to load the bases with no outs.
Whitehouse committed a double error -- a ground ball that got through the third baseman's legs and a mishandled grab in left field -- to allow the winning run. All the runners on base reached home during the sequence.
The first out of the bottom first did not come until Grapevine's sixth hitter came up to the plate. That was a sacrifice fly ball for a 4-0 lead.
A double steal with runners at the corners, spearhead by the third error of the inning, translated into a fourth error on the steal attempt. That allowed a fifth run to score.
Grapevine had two runners in scoring position when the inning ended. Neuman, in his second trip to the plate, flew out to right field against relief pitcher Landry Mayo.
The die wasn't completely cast with six innings left to play. Yet the situation never improved.
Jenkins was upbeat after the game. Reality started to settle in during hitless second, third and fourth innings. Grapevine added a sixth run during the span.
Thursday very much resembled Whitehouse's first and only other trip to the state semifinals in 2013.
"Frustrated would be a bad word," Jenkins said. "Never frustrated. You just want to win one. You get to this point, you would like to play on Friday (in the state championship). We've just got to find a way once we do get here, hopefully we do get here again, to clean things up and have a good quick start. We haven't had a good quick start yet."
Getting back to the state level of competition isn't out of the question. Eight of nine starters from the semifinal game will return to the team next season.
Mayo is the exception. His high school career ended in the loss.
"He's a special guy," Jenkins said while the team cleared the dugout. "Not just the baseball player. The kid that he is. He's going to Amherst. Guys don't do that every day. To be one of two seniors and to be one that plays a ton like he does, to lead a team and to be as energetic and vocal as he is, it's hard to replace a guy like that because of who he is. In a minute, I'm going to tell him I love him. I'll appreciate him more than he'll ever know.
"And this right here does not define who you are."