Reaching state for the first time in program history last season. Going unbeaten through the first 14 games this season.
Struggling through the first round of district this season. And going from highly ranked to unranked in a matter of weeks, if not days.
It’s safe to say Whitehouse baseball has experienced its share of ups and downs. So much so, the Wildcats entered District 16-4A as heavy favorites — only to scrape by with the fourth and final playoff seed.
But that being said, coach Derrick Jenkins has found a silver lining.
“We play the number one seed in the first round of the playoffs,” he said. “So if we win that, we are basically back to being a number one seed again.”
The Wildcats (20–5, 5-4), who lost a coin flip with Corsicana for the third and fourth seeds, complete the regular season on the road Friday against John Tyler (JT’s Senior Night). The matchup is set for 7 p.m. at Mike Carter Field.
Meanwhile, Lindale (18-7-2, 7-2) will try to earn a share of the district title against district-leading Nacogdoches (18-4, 8-1) Friday. An Eagles win would force a one-game playoff for 16-4A’s top seed.
Last season, the top seed went to Whitehouse in runaway fashion. The campaign included a school-record 31 wins and the Wildcats coming within two runs of playing for the state title (3-2 loss to Corpus Christi Moody in the semifinals).
With many of their top players returning, including two ace pitchers, the Wildcats were on everyone’s short list of state favorites entering 2014 — evidenced by their No. 3 ranking in the Texas High School Baseball Coaches preseason poll. Everything went according to plan during non-district, but matters turned for the worse in district.
A 2-0 loss to Lindale. A 7-6 loss to Nacogdoches. And an 11-3 loss to Corsicana.
“We had a bad stretch in the first round,” Jenkins said. “We weren’t doing anything to get on base and teams were playing well. …When you walk into district (unbeaten) and you went four rounds deep and to the state tournament, I think a lot of it was just kind of coasting.”
In the second round of district, Whitehouse earned payback wins against Lindale and Corsicana — and went extra innings versus Nacogdoches. Those wins —- combined with a non-district doubleheader split with 5A ninth-ranked Rockwall-Heath —- has resulted in the Wildcats going 6-2 in their last eight games.
And given their postseason experience and pitchers Patrick Mahomes and Ryan Cheatham featuring sub-1.50 ERAs, the Wildcats might be getting dangerous at just the right time.
“It’s a different intensity level,” Jenkins said. “It’s win or go home. It doesn’t matter if you are the fourth seed or the one seed, you have to play everybody. We have a group of kids who know how to play in the playoffs. One thing about this group of kids: they know how to play when the pressure is on.”
Notes: Whitehouse is tentatively scheduled to meet Mansfield Legacy (20-9, 12-1) in a best-of-three bi-district series next weekend. The opener is set for 7 p.m. May 2 in Whitehouse. The second and third games would begin at 2 p.m. May 3 in Mansfield. Legacy needs to beat Lancaster on Friday to win the 15-4A championship.