ALL-AROUND DOMINANCE: Balanced hitting, Creel's pitching propel No. 2 Troy to 12-0 romp over Whitney
POP AT THE PLATE: Troy junior right fielder Dylan Torres drove in a run in each of his three at-bats Friday night in the second-ranked Trojans' 12-0, five-inning home win over No. 19 Whitney. He produced a run-scoring single in the first inning, an RBI double in the second and a run-scoring groundout in the third. Torres was one of five players with two hits apiece for Troy (21-1 overall, 8-0 in District 17-3A). The others were senior Hagen Rose, sophomore Watson Washburn, winning senior pitcher Tanner Creel and junior Caleb Turner. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
TROY – On a warm Friday evening at Trojan Field, Whitney had an opportunity to avenge its lopsided home loss to Troy and move into a tie with the second-ranked Trojans for the District 17-3A baseball lead.
However, if that opportunity was a door, Troy's focused and balanced team slammed it quickly and forcefully on the overmatched Wildcats.
Senior left-hander Tanner Creel set the tone by needing only four pitches in the first inning of his two-hit shutout, then the Trojans' aggressive, relentless offense produced three runs in the first and second frames and six in the third as Troy romped to a 12-0, five-inning victory over error-plagued Whitney.
“I think when we show up to play and we play the brand of baseball that we try to play, yeah, we're dangerous,” Troy head coach Steve Sebesta said after his squad moved to 21-1 overall and 8-0 in 17-3A, good for a two-game lead. “Especially when we can hit the ball like that and barrel balls up, that obviously helps, and when you run the bases the way we do and be aggressive, that's what we're trying to do.
“We make outs on the bases, but at the same time we put a lot of pressure on the defense and create problems. So I just told our guys, 'If somebody were to ask how the Troy Trojans play baseball, that would be it.' So I'm proud of them for showing up ready to play.”
Troy's only loss came in early March against Class 4A Lake Belton at Cameron Yoe's tournament. The Trojans are second in the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association's 3A state rankings and No. 3 in the Diamond Pro Texas High School Baseball state rankings.
Troy won 11-2 at Whitney on March 16, but the Wildcats (16-7, 6-2) had ripped off five consecutive district wins since then by a combined 50-11 score. As such, the Trojans were prepared for a difficult challenge in the rematch. However, they played so well from the start that No. 19 Whitney never had much chance for revenge.
“It was to throw the first punch,” junior right fielder Dylan Torres, who drove in three runs, said about Troy's mental approach. “They're going to want revenge on us this time for beating them, so we knew it wasn't going to be easy and we're going to have to throw another punch and not let up at all.”
Said Sebesta about the Trojans' second blowout win over Whitney: “I'm a little surprised. They put their guy (ace pitcher Nate Callaway) on the bump, and I kind of thought it would be a close game. I just think our kids showed up ready to play, and when they do, they're dangerous. When they play like that, they're tough.”
Torres contributed heavily to the Trojans' offensive attack, driving in runs with a first-inning single, a second-inning double and a third-inning groundout. Four other Troy players recorded two hits apiece: Temple College-committed senior shortstop Hagen Rose (2-for-3, three runs), sophomore catcher Watson Washburn (2-for-3), Creel (2-for-2 with a triple) and junior second baseman Caleb Turner (2-for-3, two RBI singles, two runs).
Also contributing were senior third baseman Preston Lewis with an RBI double in the first, junior first baseman Kadin Workman with a two-run single in the third and senior center fielder Zach Hrbacek with two runs and stellar defense.
“I think a lot of it has to do with we got a lot stronger in the offseason,” Sebesta said. “Our guys did a great job in the weight room, so now we have a little bit of speed and power for the first time in a long time.”
SOUTHPAW SUCCESS: Troy senior left-hander Tanner Creel pitched a two-hitter with three strikeouts and also hit a triple and a single to help the second-ranked Trojans beat No. 19 Whitney 12-0 in five innings Friday night. Creel, who's committed to NCAA Division III Eastern University in Pennsylvania, improved his record to 6-0. The Trojans of head coach Steve Sebesta moved to 21-1 overall and 8-0 in District 17-3A. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
That was more than enough support for Creel (6-0), who retired the first six batters, then allowed two singles and issued three walks but never let a Whitney runner advance beyond second base.
A verbal commitment to NCAA Division III Eastern University in Pennsylvania, Creel said he came in confident that the Trojans were fully prepared for whatever Whitney threw at them.
“I mean, you can't ask for more, honestly. It started with our in-and-out (pregame infield and outfield practice), looking over from the bullpen and seeing everybody making throws and lots of communication,” Creel said. “Then when we get in our huddle and pray, and after that it's go time. You can just feel the energy in the dugout. That gives me all the confidence I need to go and pitch well.”
After Creel needed only four pitches to get three groundouts in the top of the first inning, Troy's lineup jumped on senior right-hander Callaway (3-1) immediately in its first time up.
Leadoff batter Rose ripped a single to left field, then raced to third when first baseman Levi Whitehead missed Callaway's pickoff throw. Hrbacek then bunted the ball back to Callaway, whose short throw home arrived in plenty of time but was dropped by catcher Garrett Peacock for another error, allowing Rose to score for a 1-0 lead.
Hrbacek tagged up to third on Workman's flyout and scored when Lewis hit a double to right, then Torres ripped a single to right to drive in Lewis for a 3-0 advantage.
After snagging Peacock's line drive to end a perfect second inning, Creel did damage with his bat. Batting eighth, the slender left-handed hitter launched a blast to deep right-center that fell just short of becoming only Troy's second home run this season but still went for a leadoff triple. Turner followed by ripping a single to left-center for a 4-0 lead.
Rose's hit-and-run single gave Troy runners at the corners, then Troy scored another run by pulling off a double steal. Rose drew a throw to second on his successful steal, which allowed Turner to sprint in for a steal of home to make it 5-0. With two outs, Torres pushed it to 6-0 with a double to left that drove in Rose.
“I'm very proud because I knew it helped the team out with scoring runs,” Torres said of his three-RBI night from the No. 5 spot.
“Dylan's having a solid season offensively. He's a strong kid and he provides a lot of power to the barrel,” Sebesta said. “We like the way he's swinging it right now.”
Whitney finally produced a base runner against Creel when Tate Winkler led off the third with a single to left and took second on Troy's lone error. However, Creel stranded Winkler there by striking out Kaden Auten, retiring Kannon Watson when Sam Houston State football signee Hrbacek made a deft catch on the run in shallow right-center and getting Cade Baker to ground out as Rose made a strong throw from deep in the hole.
The Trojans didn't necessarily need to pad their lead, but they did anyway by exploding for six runs in the third. It included three walks and two errors, and the key hits were Turner's RBI single to left and Workman's two-run single to left-center. Torres added a run-scoring groundout.
Troy's 7-8-9 batters – Washburn, Creel and Turner – were a combined 6-for-8 and, including courtesy runners, scored four runs. Turner tallied two RBI singles and two runs.
“In the beginning of the season it was kind of iffy with the bottom of the order, but now everybody's getting back in the swing of things and hitting shots,” Creel said. “And when somebody's off, we're able to get bunts down.”
Said Sebesta about Turner: “He's a scrappy little player for us. I love the way he plays the game. He's always full-throttle, he's always fifth gear wide open. He provides a spark for our offense. He's a scrappy dude.”
Creel permitted a Callaway single and walked Whitehead in the fourth, prompting a mound visit from Sebesta, but the southpaw responded with a strikeout and a flyout to keep Whitney scoreless. Creel issued back-to-back one-out walks in the fifth and received another visit from Sebesta, but Troy's typical sharp defense ended the game.
Baker chopped a grounder to Lewis, who stepped on third for the force out. His throw across the diamond was too late to turn the double play, but when trail runner Watson tried to advance to third on the play, Workman fired a strike back across to Lewis, who tagged Watson out to complete the Trojans' run-rule victory and another shutout for Creel.
COMING HOME: Troy senior left-hander Tanner Creel delivers a pitch to a Whitney batter during the second inning of the No. 2-ranked Trojans' 12-0, five-inning win over the Wildcats in District 17-3A action Friday evening in Troy. Creel (6-0) allowed only two singles in the shutout win. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
“First four innings I'd say (I was) really sharp. The last inning got a little iffy,” Creel said. “I just got a little too excited.”
Creel was a key player for the Trojans in 2019, when they won 29 games and reached the 3A Region III semifinals before losing to Pollok Central. Troy was loaded for another deep playoff run last year, but the COVID-19 pandemic stopped its promising season in March.
“After last year getting cut, this is our last year (for the seniors) and we've got to go get it, got to chase it,” Creel said. “I think we're pretty spot-on, and as the season goes on we're just going to get better. Being this good in about the middle of district, I think toward the beginning of the playoffs we should be pretty good.”
HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL
No. 2 Troy 12,
No. 19 Whitney 0 (5)
Whitney 000 00 – 0 2 4
Troy 336 0X – 12 12 1
W: Nate Callaway, Colby Estill (4) and Garrett Peacock. T: Tanner Creel and Watson Washburn. W – Creel (6-0). L – Callaway (3-1). 3B – T: Creel. 2B – T: Preston Lewis, Dylan Torres.
Highlights – W: Callaway four strikeouts, 1-for-2; T: Creel three strikeouts in shutout, 2-for-3, run; Torres 2-for-3, three runs batted in; Caleb Turner 2-for-3, two RBI, two runs; Hagen Rose 2-for-3, three runs; Washburn 2-for-3; Kadin Workman two-run single, run; Lewis RBI, two runs; Zach Hrbacek two runs.
Records – Troy 21-1 overall, 8-0 in District 17-3A; Whitney 16-7, 6-2.