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.