It may not have been dominant. Heck, it may not have even been sharp. But it was a win, and it put the Tigers right back where they feel they belong: atop the 16-4A standings.
The seventh-ranked Tigers didn’t run away and hide with Friday’s 3-2 win over previously undefeated Whitehouse, but they controlled the game throughout.
A 2-0 first inning lead gave Holden Grounds all the cushion he needed. The Tigers (24-5-1) got a big insurance run in the fifth completely on the legs of Hunter Denbow, and made a number of key defensive plays to stave off Whitehouse.
Both teams are now 8-1 in District 16-4A, and should end the league slate tied next Friday, forcing a one-game playoff.
On a night in which coach Heath Autrey said Grounds didn’t have his “A” game, he held the Wildcats (19-9) to two hits. He walked four, but struck out 10 in a complete-game, 108-pitch effort.
In 14 innings against Whitehouse, Grounds has allowed three hits.
“(The four walks) are uncharacteristic for him, but I think he was excited,” Autrey said. “He pitched through it.”
Three-sport start Patrick Mahomes drew the start for Whitehouse, and Autrey said the Tigers knew he had a tendency to be wild. He walked leadoff hitter Layton Wolver in the first on four pitches, and rightfielder Brady Harlan made him pay, drilling a 1-2 pitch to the gap in right-center for a double and 1-0 lead. A Denbow one-out single made it 2-0, and he went to third on an error.
But he couldn’t get home, and that was one of the few frustrating parts of a big win for Autrey. The Tigers have to get a runner at third home with one out, he said.
Armed with a lead, Grounds abruptly walked the leadoff batter in the second. He scored on Derek Clemons’ triple. He got out of the first unscathed partially because of a pair of picks at first by Bobby Lopez, one a splendid dig on a ball from Denbow at short that bounced two feet from Lopez’s glove.
With one out in the second, Clemons at third and a one-run lead, the Tigers got another big defensive play. Ryan Cheatham failed to get down a suicide squeeze bunt, and Clemons was toast coming home from third, as catcher Zach Rash slapped a tag on him midway down the line after he put on the brakes and slipped.
Another strikeout, and Grounds was out of the inning. In the fourth and fifth innings, he worked out of jams created by walks with pick-offs at second, one coming on an athletic play from Denbow, who reached across his body to snag the throw, then applied the tag.
“We work on those picks every day,” Autrey said. “We knew we had them, we just had to execute. They had aggressive leads.”
In the bottom of the fifth, Denbow had the at-bat that eventually spelled the end for Mahomes. He fouled off pitch after pitch with two strikes, and eventually drew a 10-pitch, one-out walk. On a hit and run, he beat out a ball fielded by shortstop Jake Parker just feet from the bag, denying the Wildcats of what should have been a sure double play.
He then took third on a wild pitch just in front of the plate, and scored on another wild pitch, standing.
“He scored that run himself after Zane (Otten) did a good job on the hit and run,” Autrey said.
Mahomes did not come out for the sixth after 98 pitches in five innings.
With another two-run lead, Grounds struck out the side in the sixth. In the seventh, he enticed three-hole Jared Raabe into a quick pop-out, but Aaron Clemons wrapped a double for the Wildcats’ second hit.
After a walk, Caleb McNulty – pinch running for Aaron Clemons, went to third on a wild pitch. Rash made an ill-advised throw to third that sailed into left field, allowing McNulty to score. But left fielder Carlos Vega quickly fetched the throw, then seeing Derek Clemons had stopped running halfway between second and third, threw to Denbow at short. Clemons broke for third, and Denbow threw to Aaron Cantu at third to complete a 7-6-5 putout, and the very important second out.
Parker flew out to center to end the game.
No. 7 Corsicana 3, Whitehouse 2
Whitehouse 010 000 7 – 2 2 2
Corsicana 200 001 0 – 3 5 1
WP – Holden Grounds
LP – Patrick Mahomes
Top Hitters – W: Aaron Clemons 1-2 (2B), Derek Clemons 1-1 (3B, RBI, 2 BBs). C: Layton Wolver 1-2 (run, 2 BBs), Brady Harlan 2-4 (2B, RBI, run), Holden Grounds 1-4 (2B), Hunter Denbow 1-2 (RBI, run, BB).
Records – Whitehouse 19-9, 8-1 in District 16-4A. Corsicana 24-5-1, 8-1.