By Travis M. Smith | KBEC Sports
WAXAHACHIE — The first-ever Ellis County Home Run derby came down to the final 38 seconds Thursday night at the Waxahachie Sports Complex.
And when 2020 Waxahachie graduate Aaron Tesei took his final hack a few pitches later, he remained one long ball short of tying Midlothian Heritage grad Gabe Vasquez’s final-round total of 16. Roc Martinez, also of Midlothian Heritage, finished the championship round two off of the title pace with 14 home runs after he blasted 15 in the first round and tied Tesei with 18 in the second round.
“This was a great time and I had so much fun with all of these guys that I’ve competed against for so long,” said Vasquez, who recorded 11 home runs in the first round and 15 in round two. “It was great to compete against all of these guys one last time.”
The derby, which was first rained out on Thursday, July 2, featured 16 2020 graduates from seven different Ellis County high schools.
Waxahachie entered the most players (5) and saw BG Winn, Campbell Sullivan and Tesei all advance past the first round. Elijah Martinez and Colton Lee also participated.
Blake Rinehart led the Ennis contingent into the second round after Cameron Skrivanek failed to finish atop their groups in round one. Seth Zambrano was a late scratch for the Lions.
Justin Dean, Dillon Martin and Rhett Newton represented Avalon, Christian Samuels hailed from Red Oak, Andrew Roland make the short drive from Maypreal and Brandon Cooper swung on behalf of the Italy Gladiators.
Cooper, who was a late sub for Midlothian Heritage grad Cade Sumbler, found himself in three different, 10 pitch swing-offs.
The format for the derby began with a random draw to separate the 16 competitors into four groups of four. Each player was afforded the opportunity to bring his own pitcher and was then given 2:30 minutes to take as many swings as possible in the opening round.
The winner of each group — plus the next two highest totals — then moved on to the 3-minute second round. The top three home run totals at the end of that round moved onto the finals.
Vasquez swung first in the championship round and launched his 16 dingers. He was followed by Martinez (14) and Tesei (15).
“This was a fantastic way to celebrate these seniors and their friends and family who didn’t have the opportunity to properly end their high school baseball careers,” said Jim Phillips, owner of KBEC 1390AM/99.1FM, which broadcasted the derby live on-air. “It was fun to see the kids compete and fellowship one last time on behalf of their respective high schools. We do also hope to make this an annual event!”
KBEC 1390AM/99.1FM and KBEC Sports also send a special “Thank You” to the community sponsors that made the first-ever event possible. Those sponsors include:
Home run: Johnson Baseball, LLC at the Optimist Fields, Everley Rose Event Center, First Financial Bank of Waxahachie, Wrzesinski Air, MC Bodyworks, Tow Pro Wrecker Service, Synergy Roofing and Remodeling Solutions, Waxahachie RBI Club
Triple: Texas Sports Locker, P&E Gutter Services, LLC, and Foodland Markets
All photos by Fred Phipps/KBEC Sports
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith