TYLER -- When Whitehouse hits the field at Dell Diamond in Round Rock next week, fans of San Antonio Alamo Heights and two other teams to be determined later this weekend will see just another club with credentials to win the Class 5A state championship.

The secret is, the Wildcats' journey to Round Rock was not a story of slapping local opponents around the ballpark in search of real competition from other quadrants of the state.

Every team Whitehouse faced -- from start to finish in the regional bracket -- was favored to beat it. The bracket was designed to weed it away from higher-performing regular season teams.

Whitehouse finished fourth in District 16-5A. It was the last team from the seven-team league to clinch a playoff spot, but it keeps on ticking.

Things culminated to their present point Friday at Mike Carter Field with 1-0 and 5-4 wins against Lufkin for a come-from-behind two games to one series victory in the Region II championship round.

"Some districts, people will say four teams is too many and some will say four teams in not enough,"dripping head coach Derrick Jenkins said seconds after getting a Gatorade bath. "You think about our football district, sometimes four isn't enough. It's about, once you get here, how do you get here (to the regional championship)? We don't get to set the rules. We just play by what they give us."

Whitehouse coach Derrick Jenkins reacts to a close play at first base during the Wildcats' regional championship series win over Lufkin on Friday in Tyler.

Jenkins' club endured its first loss in eight games Thursday evening. A single loss Friday would have spelled the end of the Wildcats' season.

Whitehouse put together the only run of Game 2 before breaking a 2-2 tie in the seventh inning of Game 3 with three runs. It then held on with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh after Lufkin pushed across two runs in response.

Shortstop Tanner Roach snagged a dead-on line drive. If he whiffed it, Lufkin could have won the game. If he bobbled it, Lufkin would have at least tied.

It wasn't the first time the Wildcats had been in grave jeopardy. They trailed Texas High, the District 15-5A champion, 8-2 in Game 3 of their opening playoff series after dropping Game 1 and somehow wiggled their way to a 9-8 win.

That coincided with the day a Collin County chapter umpire covered home plate with dirt and garnered national scolding. A Texas Association of Sports Officials investigation determined the move was unbecoming, but it also determined officiating had no impact on the outcome of the series.

Whitehouse went on to win series against Ennis, Corsicana and Wylie in the following rounds to punch a regional championship ticket. Wylie won its district and Corsicana won Whitehouse's with two regular season wins against the Wildcats en route.

Lufkin, another league member of Whitehouse's, also won two head-to-head meetings during the regular versus the Wildcats.

"I feel like our turning point was the Texas High game," Roach said amid a mob of fans that made their way into left field. "That's when we started cheering each other on and started really playing for each other. I definitely think that was the best thing that could have happened to us."

Jenkins saw the pieces coming together a bit earlier, following a 5-1 regular season loss at Corsicana nine days ahead of the playoffs.

That loss all but ensured Whitehouse could finish no better than fourth in its league. Which meant Jenkins and company were up against it in their final two district games, including a game against Nacogdoches that could have propelled Nacogdoches into fourth-place contention.

"We played pretty bad," Jenkins said. "I thought after that day, we walked into practice and made a few changes with some things. We thought once we made those changes, the kids realized, 'We've got to do some things to win some ballgames.' They kind of went to a different team baseball.

"We went away from worrying about getting hits. We went to, 'I'm just going to get to the next guy.' When you do that, you've got a chance to win."

Whitehouse is 11-2 since the dreadful night in Corsicana. It was 14-9 overall at that point.

The beat goes on.

From here, no one will ever remember the struggle it took to reach the state tournament.

"It's going to be amazing," first baseman and No. 3 pitcher Patty Miner, who earned the Game 3 win on the mound, said. "We've been dreaming about this ever since the beginning of the season. Ever since we began playing in Little League, really. This junior class and some of the seniors played Little League, Rose Capital East, Rose Capital West together. We knew this time was coming. We could click and make a run."

Whitehouse players dogpile on the infield after their 5-4 win in Game 3 of their Class 5A Region III championship series with Lufkin on Friday in Tyler.