Whitehouse Rallies to Oust District Foe Lufkin in Three Games + Advances to State
TYLER — The Whitehouse Wildcats have gone from the fourth team in to one of four teams remaining in the span of a month.
Whitehouse, the fourth-place finisher from District 16-5A, took out its second league competitor of the playoffs Friday afternoon to clinch its second-ever appearance at the UIL state baseball tournament.
The Wildcats used a complete-game four-hit shutout from Ryan Walls -- a 1-0 victory -- to force a decisive Game 3 with Lufkin, which Whitehouse claimed by rallying for three runs in the top of the seventh inning and holding on for a 5-4 win in front of an electric crowd at Mike Carter Field.
Whitehouse (25-11) will face an undetermined opponent in one Class 5A state semifinal from Round Rock’s Dell Diamond at either 4 or 7 p.m. Thursday. The title game is scheduled for 7 p.m. next Friday night.
Lufkin, which took the series opener Thursday night, finished its season at 28-10.
"When you walk into the playoffs, just be confident in what you do," said Whitehouse coach Derrick Jenkins, who guided the Wildcats to a state semifinals appearance in 2013. "Don't look at it being a fourth seed and say 'we can't be here.' Whoever gets hot in baseball at the end has a chance to win."
Whitehouse trailed Lufkin, 2-0, before the tying the game in the fifth and taking its first lead of the series with three more runs in the top of the seventh.
But the Panthers weren't interested in making things easy for Whitehouse in the bottom of the inning.
Tanner Green and Jonathan Dewberry led off the Lufkin seventh with consecutive singles off Whitehouse starter Patrick Miner, who gave way to the Game 2 winner Walls in relief.
"In the fifth inning when we tied it up, I told our coach to give me the ball," Walls said. "I just wanted it, and I felt like I had it in me."
But things got dicey for Whitehouse in a hurry. Following a flyout to center field, Blake Lazarine singled to shallow left to load the bases for Panthers right fielder and TCU signee Haylen Green.
On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Green drove in two runs with a single to left field, cutting Whitehouse's deficit to a run.
"I'm not a guy that gets caught up in the crowd, so I trust myself, trust my stuff like I did in (Game 2)," Walls said. "And that gave me a lot of confidence."
The next hitter, Max Quick, reached on a fielder's choice as Green was forced out at second. Dylan Murphy then walked to load the bases with two outs for Ben Osgood.
He lined Walls' 1-0 pitch right to shortstop Tanner Roach for the final out of an emotional three-game series.
"I feel like it just came natural," Roach said of the series' final play. "We've been dealing with these types of teams all year, so when the ball's hit at you, you've just got to react. That's what happened."
The top half of the seventh inning was just as dramatic.
Zach Taylor began the frame with a walk, moved to second on Landry Mayo's sacrifice bunt, and advanced to third on a Clayton Pruitt bunt single.
That's when Whitehouse catcher Connor Clark put the Wildcats ahead for the first time with an opposite-field RBI single to right field.
"For that guy right there, and what he's done for us behind the plate, to get that big hit and get us going … to get some clutch hits, that's big for him."
Whitehouse added two more runs in the inning on a Lufkin error and Brandon Rossiter's sac fly RBI to right field.
"They just don't quit," Jenkins said of his team. "We walked in here today, got to the clubhouse and they just seemed relaxed and ready to play."
Lufkin jumped ahead 2-0 in Game 3 with runs in the first and third innings. Green singled in Jonathan Dewberry (3-for-3, three runs) in the first, and Rowley doubled Dewberry home in the third.
It took Whitehouse four innings to get to Lufkin starting pitcher Manuel Garcia Jr. But Pruitt's two-run triple into the gap in right-center field tied it up, 2-2. The hit helped to cover up a trio of baserunning outs in the middle innings that may have prevented Whitehouse from seizing control earlier in the game.
"A lot of situations kinda got away from us, but we'll be aggressive all day right there," Jenkins said. "We knew we needed to get some runs up to put some pressure on their guys."
It was all Walls in Game 2 of the series early Friday afternoon.
The senior right-hander worked his fourth complete-game of the playoffs, allowing just four singles over seven shutout innings. He needed just 87 pitches to dispose of Lufkin in a game that took only 82 minutes to complete.
"I felt good, I felt like I had to come out here and perform for my team like I've done all season," Walls said. "I knew they would have my back. There was really no pressure on us because we're not supposed to win, and we're not supposed to be going to state. I think that helps us -- me, and my team a lot."
The only run of the game came courtesy of Taylor, who stroked a two-out RBI single to left field that scored Mason House.
Logan Lair was the tough-luck loser for Lufkin, allowing a run on four hits in six innings.
"Some districts, people say four teams is too many, and some say four teams isn't enough," Jenkins said. "Think about our football district; sometimes four isn't enough. We don't get to set the rules, we just play with the rules they give us."
And rules dictate that Whitehouse is two more wins shy of winning its first baseball state championship.
"Thinking that we might not even make the playoffs during the season, and now we're going to state," Walls added. "That's unheard of."
Whitehouse 5, Lufkin 4
Class 5A Region II Championship Series -- Game 3
At Mike Carter Field, Tyler
Whitehouse 000 020 3 -- 5 10 1
Lufkin 101 000 2 -- 4 10 1
Pitchers and catchers
- Whitehouse: Patrick Miner, Ryan Walls (7) and Connor Clark
- Lufkin: Manuel Garcia Jr., Kolten Eberlan (5) and Ben Osgood
WP -- Miner
LP -- Eberlan
S -- Walls
- Lufkin: Luke Rowley, Dylan Murphy
- Whitehouse: Clayton Pruitt
Whitehouse 1, Lufkin 0 (Game 2)
Lufkin 000 000 0 -- 0 4 0
Whitehouse 010 000 x -- 1 4 0
Pitchers and catchers
- Lufkin: Logan Lair and Connor Hanks
- Whitehouse: Walls and Clark
WP -- Walls
LP -- Lair