Before they buckle back down on the drive for a state championship, the Whitewater Wildcats took a working vacation to show that they rank with the nation’s best baseball teams. From Wednesday through Saturday, the Wildcats took part in the USA Baseball National High School Invitational in Cary, NC, and they did not disappoint.
Whitewater was chosen to be among the nation’s 16 best baseball teams invited to the prestigious tournament. The Wildcats went 2-2, bookending their trip with wins, against some of the nation’s finest.
“I was pleased with the way we played. We came out and battled,” said Whitewater coach Rusty Bennett. “To come out of there 2-2 in that type of environment against those type of teams, I was very pleased.”
The Wildcats got solid play from both their hitting and their pitching. The offense piled up 21 runs and close to 40 hits in four games. The pitching got a number of key performances throughout the weekend.
“Jake Lee threw great. Ethan Gillis competed and threw a heck of a ballgame. Colby Taylor threw great. Jeremiah Woods got the win in game one,” said Bennett. “Another pitcher I was really happy to see throw well was Allen Chumley (the starting pitcher in game four). He couldn’t have thrown any better than he did.”
The Wildcats opened the tournament with a bang, notching a come-from-behind 7-4 win over DeSoto Central from Mississippi on Wednesday.
After DeSoto jumped on the Cats for three runs in the top of the first, Whitewater battled back. Tyler Burdette led off with a single then was joined on base after a Tyler Doanes single. Miles Jones stepped up with a single to score Burdette and slice the deficit to 3-1.
DeSoto added one more run in the top of fourth.
Whitewater tried to string together a rally in the fifth when Brandon Bell drew a walk, Jones singled, and Jabari Richards singled to load the bases with one out, but a double play would kill the charge.
It was the bottom of the sixth when the Wildcat bats exploded. JD Norred’s double set the table, but following a strike out they would have two outs on the board. It didn’t slow them down as Burdette singled, then Doanes added his own to plate Norred. Bell stepped up and drove in Doanes before Jones singled to load the bases. Richards didn’t waste the opportunity, tripling and driving in three runs to give Whitewater their first lead. Nick Fink followed up with an RBI knock to put the Cats in front 7-4.
After giving up three runs in the first inning, starter Jake Lee settled down to pitch five innings, striking out four and walking none. Colby Taylor and Jeremiah Woods each threw an inning of scoreless relief, with Woods getting the win.
Richards was the star on offense, going 3 for 4 with three RBI. Miles Jones was also 3 for 4 with an RBI.
Whitewater had a chance to deal a knockout blow to the nation’s top team, Florida’s Mosley Dolphins, on Thursday, but they couldn’t quite connect. A big lead early could’ve exploded, but a bases loaded, no-out look would stall and Mosley wouldn’t waver again.
The Cats got on the board in the bottom of the second thanks to a host of Mosley miscues and some small ball. Avery Roth led off and struck out, but reached first on a dropped third strike. Jared Gresham singled, then both moved over on a throwing error. Levi Whitlock beautifully executed the squeeze play to bunt home Roth for the game’s opening run, then Gresham raced home for run two on a passed ball.
The defense was huge early on, ending both the second and third innings with a double play.
Whitewater had a chance to blow the game open in the third, but cost themselves a prime chance. Bell led off with an infield single, then they juiced the bases with no outs on a Miles Jones single and a Jabari Richards bunt single. However, they would run themselves out of the inning when Mosley threw home on a shot to short for one out, then got the force at third thanks to a baserunning miscue. An easy groundout would mean they got nothing out of a prime scoring opportunity.
Things came undone in the top of the fourth as the Dolphins built on the momentum of escaping that huge jam, piling up four unearned runs for a 4-2 lead, then kept the Cats off the board the rest of the way.
Ethan Gillis pitched the full seven innings, striking out seven, walking two, and allowing no earned runs. The offense was an even effort with seven batters notching one hit a piece.
After Friday’s start time was rained out, Whitewater suited up for a Saturday doubleheader.
The morning matchup with Huntington Beach from California was the lone lopsided game for the Cats, an 11-2 defeat.
Huntington was able to get to the Wildcat staff, talying runs in five of seven innings.
Whitewater got their pair of runs in the bottom of the third. Miles Jones plated Nick Weinstein on a sacrifice fly before Richards doubled home Doanes.
Whitewater finished off the weekend with a 10-8 win over Trinity Prep from Florida.
The Cats jumped on the board in the first inning when Bell doubled home Richards.
Trinity responded with three runs in the bottom of the second, but the Cats battled back.
Bell struck again in the third, singling home Burdette to pull within one run. They surged ahead in the fourth when Burdette doubled home Win Lindsey and Austin Gardner.
Trinity pulled back in front in the fourth, but Whitewater responded again.
The fifth inning blew the door wide open as the Cats exploded for six runs. The first came when Connor Nalley was able to reach base on an error to score Richards. Gardner followed with a two-RBI double and Bryce Baker singled home two. Austin Adams plated the last run with a sacrifice fly.
From there, Whitewater withstood the charge from Trinity to hold on for the win.
Allen Chumley got the start and pitched four innings, allowing three hits, and two earned runs. Colby Taylor pitched three innings of relief to get the win, allowing two hits, striking out four, and giving up two earned runs.