WHITEWRIGHT — The opportunities were there for Howe as the bases continued to fill up with Bulldogs. In the span of three innings, there wasn’t any wasting them.
The opportunities were there for Whitewright as the bases were clogged with Tigers. In the span of four innings, too many of them were stranded.
Thanks to the early barrage and bases-clearing doubles by Brennan Ross and Matt Griffin, Howe defeated Whitewright, 12-5, in District 10-3A action on Friday night.
Ross finished 4-for-4 with a walk, drove in four, scored three times and stole three bases while Peyton Reagan drove in two runs and Jaden Matthews scored three times for Howe (11-4, 3-0), which is joined by Leonard as the only undefeated teams left in the district after Van Alstyne edged Farmersville in extra innings.
Whitewright (3-12, 1-2) was trying to forge a first-place tie with the Bulldogs but couldn’t carry over its momentum from earlier in the week after a win against Van Alstyne, last year’s state runner-up. The Tigers had their chances to get back in the game against Tanner Hartsfield and Griffin but Howe wouldn’t break, only bend, after opening an 8-2 lead in the third inning.
“We had some good, timely hitting, especially Brennan and Matt,” Howe head coach Heath Grant said. “We haven’t played the two big dogs yet, Van Alstyne and Farmersville. We’ll see where we’re at after the first half of district. But the kids have taken care of business so far.”
Ross had the big blow early as he emptied the bases with a three-run double to center in the second. The Bulldogs set the table with a walk by Mason Riggs, Hartsfield was hit by a pitch and Matthews reached on an error.
Reagan drove in Ross with a sac fly.
The Tigers cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the inning. After a leadoff error and a double by Burke Hosier to left, Braden Richtie had an infield single to short to get Whitewright on the board. Neal Taylor then plated a run with a fielder’s choice up the middle.
It took a two-out rally in the top of the third for Howe to break the game open. Two quick strikeouts with the bottom of the order looming didn’t look like a spark but Hartsfield and Matthews singled to keep the inning alive.
“We get two outs and then the bottom of the order, those eight and nine guys come through,” Grant said. “That was real big. I was impressed by that. We kinda changed the order up a little bit and they came through.”
Ross singled to center for a run and another came when Dylan Dillard reached on an error. Reagan rapped a hit between third and short to drive in Ross and Tyler Grisham was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to force in a run.
Payton Jones, who took the loss for Whitewright, had a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the inning but the Tigers stranded a pair in scoring position. It was the start of a four-inning stretch that would hinder the comeback attempt.
Howe tacked on its final four runs in the fourth. The first came on an error and with the bases loaded, Griffin cleared them with a double to left-center.
Whitewright immediately loaded the bases with one out and a chance to get right back in the game. Taylor reached on an error and Devlin Carraway and Seth Williams singled to turn the lineup over. But Hartsfield got Kendall Shaw to tap back to him for the force at home and then Dylan Cordell flew out to left.
In the fifth inning, The Tigers had the first three batters reach to produce a run — Seth Jackson doubled, Jones singled and then Hosier had an infield single to make it 12-4. After Ritchie struck out and the runners pulled off a double steal, the inning ended when Taylor hit a low liner to second baseman Bryce Krantz, who was able to turn a double play.
The sixth inning saw a similar end against Griffin, who threw the final two innings. Carraway singled and pinch-hitter Austin Jones walked. There were then runners at the corners with one out when Cordell pushed a bunt towards first for a run. Jackson singled to load the bases before Griffin struck out the next two to end the potential rally.
“That’s being big time when you’re supposed to be,” Grant said.