WHITEHOUSE — About five years ago, Patrick Mahomes and Ryan Cheatham forged a friendship while playing for the same select team.
The Whitehouse baseball players now consider themselves best friends — more like brothers, actually. And when considering their similarities, it’s easy to see why.
Mahomes and Cheatham both play pitcher in baseball and quarterback in football — and excel at both. So much so, the sophomores are the Wildcats’ top two pitchers and are expected to compete for starting quarterback next fall.
“We drive each other,” said Mahomes, the staff ace. “I know when he plays good I try to beat him and I know when I play good he tries to beat me.”
So far, the competition has paid off — in a major way.
Only two years after helping Tyler East win a Little League national title, Mahomes and Cheatham have been keys to Whitehouse’s winningest team in program history. In helping the Wildcats reach the fourth round for the first time, they combined to shut out Red Oak in the regional quarterfinals last week.
And because of their respective performances, No. 5 Whitehouse (28-4) meets fourth-ranked Rockwall-Heath (30-8) in the Class 4A Region II semifinals this week. Game 1 of the best-of-three series is at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Whitehouse and Game 2 is at 5:30 p.m. Friday in Heath.
Game 3, if necessary, will follow the second game.
Mahomes, who debuted on varsity as a freshman, went 8-2 during the regular season with a 2.05 ERA and 74 strikeouts. He was also one of the Wildcats’ top batters, evidenced by a .405 batting average with 24 RBIs and 32 runs.
Mahomes has started three of the Wildcats’ four playoff games, and is scheduled to get the call Thursday. Cheatham, who went 5-1 during his first regular season on varsity, started the second game against Red Oak and turned in a complete-game two-hitter that included seven strikeouts.
“They are mature as far as what they do and how they handle themselves,” Whitehouse coach Derrick Jenkins said. “You forget sometimes that they are sophomores. Sometimes I’ve got to tell myself that they are just sophomores out there on the mound.”
Cheatham has used this season to break through.
“For me it’s been a really great chance to show what I got because it’s my first year on varsity,” Cheatham said. “I get to show my teammates I can hang with all those juniors and seniors. This group of guys has great chemistry together. It’s not a job to come out here every day.”
Both have steadily shown improvement since stepping onto campus last year.
“Both of them are so coachable,” Jenkins said. “They talk, they ask questions, they listen — they want to get better every day. And as long as they are doing that, I think you will have two special kids one day.”
Even though high school baseball has already provided great memories, Mahomes and Cheatham still have two more years ahead of them — which means the sky might be the limit.
“They are young, so you worry about pitch count and things like that,” Jenkins said. “You make sure you take care of them, so by the time they are seniors they will be able to do some things they aren’t able to do now.”
In part because of the Tyler East experience, Mahomes and Cheatham entered the season with plenty of experience in the spotlight and have used it to their benefit.
“Before we came into high school we were already playing on a big stage in front of a lot of people,” Cheatham said. “And then we come out here on Friday night and we have a ton of people in the stands. We are already used to that.”
Added Mahomes: “I think it’s a great experience that we are this far now, which I didn’t expect at all. I know this will help us down the road.”
Rockwall-Heath swept Frisco Centennial (7-2, 16-3) to advance to the series. The winner will advance to meet either Frisco Wakeland or Waxahachie in the regional final.