Corsicana's Tigers reached out and grabbed first-place again Tuesday night as they started the stretch run in District 14-5A, where four teams were tied for first before Tuesday.
Not any more -- at least not for the moment. And that's how the Tigers have to look at the race, which is every-changing because of the stockpile of talent in the district. Four teams went 4-2 in the first half of district play, and Midlothian, the team the Tigers beat in the Region III title series in 2019 to reach finals, went 3-3.
Heath Autrey's kids played last-place Waco University to start the second half of the district season and won easily 9-1 in Waco. It could have been over early, but after building a 9-0 lead after five innings the Tigers left the bases loaded in the sixth and seventh.
Kolby Kinkade had a no-hitter after five innings, and had faced the minimum of 15 batters, thanks to his pickoff move, which wiped out a runner at second base in the first. Kinkade mowed down 14 in a row before a pair of two-out back-to-back singles brought home a run in the sixth.
Kinkade, who walked just one (leadoff man Anthony Delifuente in the first) finished with four Ks while improving to 6-0. The run in the sixth sent his season ERA soaring to 0.66.
Kinkade has pitched like an ace since opening day, giving the Tigers one brilliant start after another. He's been on the Corsicana mound since he was a freshman back in 2018, and was a key factor to the Tigers' run to the state semifinals in 2019.
Zane Petty, who was lights-out earlier in the season, pitched a 1-2-3 seventh with two strikeouts and a comebacker to the mound, looking like the smooth and confident pitcher the Tigers know all so well, throwing the ball with ease and pinpoint control (he needed 12 pitches in the inning and nine were strikes).
Of course, this is the time of year the Tigers want to step up to the next level, time for a strong finish in the stretch run.
There's no time to blink. They face Cleburne at 7 p.m. Friday at Price Field, where big and loud crowd is expected. Cleburne started the season ranked No. 1 in the state in 5A baseball, and the Yellow Jackets were still No. 1 on March 9 -- the night the Tigers knocked them off 4-2 in Cleburne.
They weren't blinking Tuesday in Waco, seeing the ball as well as at any time this season. They beat up Waco pitching, pounding out 17 hits.
Miguel Luevano, who is heating up as the Tigers head down the stretch, reached base five times, going 3-for-3 with doubles in the first and third innings, a single in the fifth and walks in the fourth and seventh. He scored twice to build his team-leading lead to 22 runs, and drove in two runs.
Hunter Autrey drove in the Tigers' first three runs with an RBI double in the first when he blasted a shot to left that would have been a home run if not for a strong wind that was blowing in, and he delivered a two-run single in the third that brought home Brydan Hernandez, who led the inning off with a single, and Luevano to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead. Autrey has now driven in 28 runs in 23 games.
Austin Pryor and Connor Means, who hit in the No. 7 and No. 8 spots in the lineup, combined to go 5-for-7 and reached base six times. Pryor , who hits seventh, went 3-for-4 and drove in two runs, and Means followed him, going 2-for-3 with a walk, and drove in two runs.
Solomon James led off the fifth with a double and scored to ignite a four-run inning that made it a 9-0 game. Aiden Morehouse, who went 2-for-4, Means, and Bradley Gruver also scored in the fifth.
The Tigers are now 5-2 in the race and 18-5 for the season with a torturous five-game stretch left in the district race.