Waxahachie and Midlothian's baseball programs know each other extremely well. Many of the kids have played with and against each other since they started playing America's pastime.
So you know that anytime they get together and face off, it's going to be an interesting game. Saturday's championship game of the Robert Dulin Memorial Tournament was no different as Midlothian was able to escape Richards Park with a 9-4 victory. In fact, the Panthers escaped the week unscathed as it won all five of it's games.
“We're really fortunate to get out of here with five wins. Waxahachie played really hard,” Midlothian coach Ray Hydes said. “It doesn't matter 4A or 5A here. When we play each other, our kids all know each other and coach Wood does a really good job with them. We love playing them because they play hard.”
Midlothian jumped out to an early lead, but Waxahachie got a big break and retook the advantage. Timely hitting late in the game helped the Panthers get back on top, but a big final inning allowed Midlothian to put the game away.
The Panthers scored unearned runs in each of the first two innings as Waxahachie committed a pair of uncharacteristic errors.
“You're not going to beat good teams, and (Midlothian) is a very good baseball team, if you don't pitch and play good defense,” Waxahachie coach Tracy Wood said. “You don't pitch, you don't catch, you don't win. That's the bottom line. We competed and got back in the game. We didn't pitch well down the stretch.”
Midlothian scored in the first inning after a two-out error. Ethan Hallmark led off the game with a walk and advanced to second on a single by JB Garrett. A ground out moved Hallmark to third then he scored on a booted ground ball.
The second inning was similar as Dylan Sweeney led off with a double, but Waxahachie was able to get two quick outs after that. Then a botched throw on the would-be final out allowed Sweeney to score.
The Panthers didn't play mistake free either as their big blunder in the third inning allowed Waxahachie to take the lead. With one out, Sammy Ernst lifted a fly ball to right field and the outfielder put his hands up and seemed to have the ball, but it fell out of his glove and the umpires called it not a catch, which allowed Ernst to reach second.
“I thought my kid caught the ball, but he was lackadaisical on the transfer,” Hydes said. “You can catch it and take two or three steps, but if the ball comes out, they can rule him safe. I thought he had it and it was a crucial call in the game because they got fired up after that. It was like a hornet's nest after that.”
Wood wasn't sure if the correct call was made.
“We got our break, we scored three after that,” Wood said. “I couldn't tell if he caught the ball or not. Calls weren't the factor in that game.”
Taylor Bright singled to left to score Ernst then Alex Engelhardt ripped a double to left to score Jake Johnston, who ran for Bright. Jake Loose entered the game to run for Engelhardt and he scored on a single to left field by Bailey Medlock.
Midlothian started six-foot-eight freshman Russell Smith and the coach didn't think about pulling him after allowing three straight hits.
“I think he learned what it takes to pitch in this level,” Hydes said. “We didn't run out there and get him the first time he got in trouble because he has to learn how to pitch in those situations. We're trying to teach and he threw the ball well. He is still raw, but he's only going to get better.”
The big lefty calmed down after that for the most part. He only allowed four hits in five innings of work.
Waxahachie had a 3-2 lead after that big inning, but Midlothian retaliated immediately thanks to a big two-out hit from sophomore catcher Zach Humphreys. The Panthers got Tyler Frailey on after a fielder's choice and Garrett on after a walk then Humphreys drilled a two-run triple to right field to put the Panthers back on top 4-3.
Waxahachie didn't stay behind long as it scored an unearned run to tie the game. A single by Britton Cupp then a walk by Austin Moore put two runners on. Tanner Salik then dropped a sacrifice bunt to get them into scoring position. An intentional walk to Ernst loaded the bases for Bright. He grounded out to second base, but that was enough to bring in Cupp as the tying run.
Waxahachie got two quick outs in the top of the fifth and final inning and seemed like it was going to have a chance to get the win in the bottom half of the inning. But two walks, a hit, an error and a hit batter allowed Midlothian to score five runs and put the game out of reach.
“We're a work in progress and we're going to keep working and getting better,” Wood said. “I'm not happy with not throwing strikes and not playing defense. Five unearned runs. That's what I'm not happy with.”
Despite leaving the tournament with five wins, Hydes thinks there's still plenty for his team to improve upon.
“It's still early, we have a lot of things we want to work on and clean it up,” Hydes said “Sometimes aggression comes out in that rivalry game. We did some things on the basepaths we don't normally do. You get caught up in it a little bit.”
Midlothian (9-2) will play in the Mansfield Legacy tournament this week.
Midlothian 7, Stephenville 1
The Midlothian Panthers' run to the Dulin Tournament championship began Thursday morning with a win against 3A Stephenville.
The Yellowjackets reached the Regional Finals last year, but were no match for the Panthers.
The game was decided quickly as Midlothian exerted its will early with seven runs in the first three innings.
An error, a two-run single by Matt Horn, and a sacrifice fly by Ethan Davis in the first inning and an RBI single by Zach Humphreys during the second inning helped the Panthers put some runs on the board early.
Ryan Minnix baffled Stephenville, striking out five batters. Ryan allowed one earned run, five hits and two walks over five innings.
Midlothian added two more runs in the bottom of the third. A ground out scored Ethan Davis for the inning's first run. That was followed up by Ethan Hallmark's single, plating Blake Barr.
Midlothian 11, W.T. White 1
Shortly after playing Stephenville, the Panthers dominated the Longhorns thanks to being patient at the plate.
The Longhorn pitchers struggled to throw strikes as they walked the bases loaded to begin the game. Matt Heck continued to swing the bat well as he singled up the middle to drive in the first run of the game.
The Panthers batted around in the first inning, scoring seven total runs. Colton Moore took the mound for the Panthers and made short work of the Longhorn batters. Moore pitched three innings allowing one run on one hit with five strikeouts.
The Panthers scored two more runs in the second and blow the game away with seven runs in the third inning, highlighted by Matt Heck's first home run of the year to straight away center field.
Midlothian 4, Coppell 3
The Panthers and Cowboys passed the lead back and forth four times on Friday, but in the end Midlothian pulled out the win.
Midlothian took the lead in the top of the seventh inning and held on for the victory. The the winning run was scored on an RBI single by Johnathan Rehkopf, scoring Lane Bogy.
Matt Horn got a hit in each of his two at bats. He singled in the first and fourth innings.
Zach Humphreys, Ethan Hallmark and Matt Horn helped lead the Panthers. They combined for four hits and three RBIs.
The top of the first saw Midlothian take an early lead, 2-0. JB Garrett doubled to start things off before Zach tripled, bringing home Garrett. The Panthers added more runs when Laney scored on an RBI single by Matt Horn.
Coppell responded with all three of its runs in the bottom of the first as Midlothian pitcher Jimmy Fouse made his first start of the season. He had made a few relief appearances, but this was his first start since a foot injury during football season cost him several months of activity.
“Slowly, but surely I'm getting back,” Fouse said. “That's a good team we faced. We just had to keep competing.”
He admitted to being a little too hyper in the first inning when the Cowboys scored their runs.
“I couldn't find anything in the first inning, but once I was able to calm down it got better,” Fouse said. “After the first inning, it got good enough and our guys were able to battle back and get the win.”
Fouse normally also plays short, but Garrett is doing a great job at the position right now and Fouse also isn't 100 percent healthy yet. He nor Hydes want to rush his full recovery.
“We wanted to stretch him out and after the first inning he got better and he was pounding the zone. He really did a good job,” Hydes said. “I think he's probably 80-85 percent. You could tell when he fields the ball he's not quite sure of himself yet. And that's part of it. You have to get over that timidness and that's why he's probably less than 80 percent back to playing shortstop.”
Fouse finished with four strike outs and one walk after the first inning.
Midlothian 3, Birdville 2
Birdville wasn't able to overcome the hole it dug itself into early against Midlothian.
The Hawks led 1-0 after the first inning, but the Panthers scored all three of their runs in the third inning to take the lead for good.
The big blast came in the form of a two-run homer by Humphreys to left field to break what was then a 1-1 tie.
“It was a pretty fat fastball. I saw it pretty good and I reacted and hit it pretty well,” Humphreys said. “Usually I just try to get on base, but hitting a home run never hurts and it looks good.”
Ethan Davis baffled Birdville, striking out eight batters. Davis allowed no earned runs on three hits and four walks over five innings.
Garrett tripled home the first run of that inning to score Rehkopf.