By Travis M. Smith | KBEC Sports
A lead-off home run proved to be all the run support Jared Thomas needed to defeat Harker Heights and send the Waxahachie Indians into round two of the 6A baseball playoffs.
Xavien Thompson sent the second pitch he saw in the bottom of the first inning just to the right of the 321-foot sign in right field. The solo shot put Waxahachie on top, 1-0, in the eventual 4-0 6A Region II bi-district championship victory against (18-13-1) Harker Heights on Saturday afternoon at Paul Richards Park.
“I thought it was staying in because the wind was blowing in,” said Thompson of his home run. “The wind was blowing hard, so I genuinely thought he was going to catch it. But, it kept going and went out.”
He added about the bi-district championship victory that “this is really exciting and we have worked hard for it. We wanted to show off what all we worked for, so making it to the second round is big for us.”
Thompson raked throughout the series sweep against Harker Heights, reaching base six times in seven plate appearances. He finished 4-for-5 with a home run, two triples, 2 RBIs, 2 runs scored and a pair of walks.
The first-inning home run for Thompson on Saturday was his team-best sixth round-tripper on the season. He boasts an impressive .413/.750/1.292 slash line with nine doubles, two triples, 18 RBIs and team-high 40 runs scored over 92 at-bats.
Waxahachie head baseball coach Tracy Wood applauded Thompson’s recent efforts, noting a slight change in mindset has led to his recent success.
“He is swinging it pretty well,” Wood explained. “I told him the other day that he was getting a little timid and we needed him to get back to being aggressive. He’s doing that and he can hit it. He’s doing a good job.”
As for Thomas, the senior left-hander was nails on the bump Saturday. He struck out eight, walked two and allowed just one hit — a first-inning single — in the victory.
Six Knights reached base on the afternoon, which included a dropped third strike and lone Indian error. The Tribe turned a pair of double plays behind Thomas on the bump, too.
“I was very impressed with this guy,” said Thompson as he and Thomas dapped each other up inside the first-base dugout. Thomas made sure to stick around during the interview and prod his centerfielder a little. “He does it all the time. He comes in, throws strikes and just does what he do. And he did real good for us today.”
Thomas (6-2, 0.87 ERA) was named the Waxahachie Glass Corporation Player of the Game following the victory.
Waxahachie plated a pair of runs in the second inning and a fourth run in the bottom of the fifth. The final run came when Thompson broke early from first base and got into a run down, allowing Casey Kelly to break from third and slide home safely at the plate.
Kelly and freshman Joel Jurkash recorded the only other two Waxahachie hits, with Thompson’s home run being the third. Kelly’s was a lead-off double in the fifth inning to set up his eventual score.
Waxahachie won game one of the three-game series Friday night, 4-2, behind a six-inning gem tossed by Kelly (8-1, 1.07 ERA).
“We were good enough,” said Wood of the series. “I thought we pitched well in both games and that is how you win baseball games. You’ve got to pitch well. We had one error in the series and we pitched well. We also had some timely hitting that helped us, but we are going to round two, so we are happy to be playing right now.”
Waxahachie improved to 25-8 on the season with the series victory. The Tribe has also now won six consecutive ball games, which includes eight of their past nine.
Thompson contributed the late-season surge and winning streak to a change in in-game mindset for the ball club.
“Really, we have just had to pick it up because we just didn’t have the kind of energy in some of the games that we do now,” Thompson explained. “And that contributed to the losses that we had. We’ve changed our mindset and we’ve been doing our thing with the energy.”
The Indians move on to face (24-10-1) Wylie in the 6A Region II area championship. The Pirates swept Mesquite Horn (11-1, 7-0) in their bi-district matchup on Friday.
The three-game series will be played on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, weather permitting. Game one is slated to be played at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Royse City High School. Game two will begin at 7:30 p.m. at Duncanville High School. Game three (if necessary) will see the series return to Royse City for a 1 p.m. first pitch.
The forecast currently calls for significant rainfall through Wednesday.
Wood noted that some of the coaching staff scouted Wylie on Friday. He had previously watched the Pirates against Dallas Jesuit this past Saturday and looks for the area championship to be extremely competitive.
“They are good,” Wood said, “and there is no doubt about it. We’ll see. I don’t think they are any better than we are, but they are good. You have to show up to play; you know how the playoffs are. We have to show up to play every time.”
All photos by Kirk Holt/KBEC Sports
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith