An aura of confidence has energized the Whitewater Wildcats baseball team.
After a rocky start to the season, the Wildcats have turned it around in the last couple of weeks. Riding a three-game sweep of rival Fayette County, the Wildcats returned home to face the undefeated Griffin Bears in region play.
The Bears were 6-0 in Region 3-AAAAA and held a slight lead for second place. However, the Wildcats weren’t fazed by their region foes. Behind an early offensive jolt, Whitewater overpowered Griffin 11-1 on Tuesday night.
The win pushed their winning streak to four games and improved them to 8-9 (6-4) in region play. The Bears fell to 7-8 (6-1) on the season.
“We are getting better each day and our guys know what is at stake right now,” Whitewater head coach Rusty Bennett said. “We talk about winning and we want to host in the state playoffs. That is goal and it showed in the way the kids played tonight.”
After Griffin took an early 1-0 lead, Whitewater didn’t waste any time settling the score. In the bottom of the first inning, the Wildcats scored five runs against Bears starter Devin Keene. Senior infielder Justin Burdette got the Wildcats on the board with an RBI single that scored junior Thomas McKenzie.
Two batters later, Burdette would come around to score as sophomore Maddox Mueller took an inside fastball from Keene into right field. He also plated starter Chase Townsend on the play. With the score 3-1, the Wildcats weren’t done as designated hitter Grayson Samples came up next.
Samples continued the hitting party as he also connected on a fastball from Keene. This time, he took it up the middle for a single and two RBIs. This pushed the lead to 5-1 as Whitewater added four hits in the opening inning.
Bennett was pleased with the aggressive start. He was proud with the effort displayed from his players at the plate.
“That is credit to better approaches at the plate and it’s something we have been working on for the past couple of weeks,” Bennett said.
Whitewater continued to pour it on in the second inning. The Wildcats added five more runs as they took advantage the Bears crucial mistakes. After getting two quick outs, the Bears committed back-to-back errors to allow the deficit to swell to 7-1. Later, it would be Mueller and Samples that found similar success an inning before.
Mueller added two more RBIs as he drove in Townsend and Burdette. Samples followed with a double and Dylan Morris added an RBI single. This pushed the lead to 10-1 as every run came with two outs.
“I thought we swung the bat well and we scored 10 runs in two innings with two outs,” Bennett said. “Five runs were in each inning and they all came with two outs.”
Samples added the last run in the fourth inning and finished the game as the Stonewall Player of the Game. He was 3-for-3 with three RBIs. Mueller was equally impressive as he drove in four runs on the night.
“(Samples) is getting better every single game and it is a blessing,” Bennett said. “We will need bats as we make a run at this thing in the playoffs.”
The offensive outburst provided more than enough run support for Townsend. He went three innings and collected the win. After shaking off the early run, he settled in and held the Bears at bay.
While the Wildcats cruised in game one, Bennett doesn’t expect the series to get easier. He knows that his team will have to battle on the road Thursday night.
“I expect a dogfight on Thursday as Coach Calhoun has a great bunch over there and does a great job with them,” Bennett said. “I don’t expect to go over there and get anything less than a battle because we both are fighting for a playoff spot.”
Game two will take place at Griffin High School at 5:55 p.m. on Thursday.