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By Travis M. Smith | KBEC Sports An ever-crowded District 11-6A playoff picture became crystal clear just as the rain clouds took over Monday night in Hewitt. With a torrential downpour quickly approaching, the (22-8, 10-4) Waxahachie Indians defeated host Waco Midway, 6-4. The game, initially rained out on Friday, was the final of the regular season for the two teams. And, though the Indians and (15-13-1, 10-4) Midway Panthers ended the season with identical 11-6A records, it was a pregame coin flip that ultimately decided the final playoff seeding. The Panthers won that flip, giving them the second seed and the Indians the third. Waxahachie did, however, have to win the game to avoid a coin flip or playoff seeding game against fourth-place (16-13, 9-5) Duncanville. The Mansfield Tigers won this season’s District 11-6A championship with a 17-10-1 overall record and 11-3 mark in league play. Jared Thomas was once again stellar for the Tribe, playing his way to the Waxahachie Glass Corporation Player of the Game honor. The junior finished the night 2-for-4 at the plate with an RBI and run scored. Thomas will enter the playoffs with a team-best 37 RBIs, 13 doubles, three triples and a .488-batting average. His four home runs trail senior centerfield Xavien Thompson (5). Thomas also earned the win on the mound Monday for the Tribe, improving his season record to 5-2 with a 0.98 ERA over 55.1 IP. He struck out six Panthers, walked four and scattered four hits over 5.0 IP. The lone run he allowed was unearned. Anthony Mata closed out the game by striking out three and allowing three runs (2 ER) on two hits over two complete innings. The six-out performance resulted in Mata’s first save on the season. Waxahachie collected just three hits during the victory but did benefit from seven walks and one Midway error. The Tribe scored all six runs in a merry-go-round style second inning. Midway plated three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to make things interesting — and make those in attendance get a little damp on the way to their vehicles. UP NEXT The Indians will now face the (18-12-1, 10-4) Harker Heights Knights in a 6A Region II bi-district championship. The Knights finished second in District 12-6A, which was won by the (23-3-1, 13-1) Belton Tigers. Killeen Ellison and Copperas Cove rounded out that district’s playoff picture. Game one of the three-game series is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Harker Heights. Game two will be played at 2 p.m. Saturday at Paul Richards Park in Waxahachie, with game three to follow (if necessary). ____ Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith...

5/7/2021

By Travis M. Smith | KBEC Sports Anthony Mata tossed the barrel around an outside offspeed pitch to send it into the third base coach’s box during the Waxahachie Indians’ regular-season home finale. The senior was battling, already stuck in a 2-1 count with the Indians tied with visiting Mansfield Lake Ridge, 4-4. It was the bottom-of-the-seventh inning in what, at that time, was thought to be the final game at historic Paul Richards Park for the Tribe’s Class of 2021. Mata dug back in at the plate on Senior Night with a runner — in this case, fellow senior Xavien Thompson — standing ready to go wheels up on second base. He gently tapped his bat on the 17-inch wide piece of rubber and exhaled. **** Mata is a member of a group of seniors from around the country who lost nearly their entire junior campaign due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. They also watched as much of their summer select-ball plans were dashed by continued restrictions. The pandemic and gradual return to normal would not mark the end of this group’s adversities, though. Not even close. This class of Indians was to be emotionally tested — twice more. The first tragic shock came on a rainy Sept. 21. Dreary weather had the varsity group instructed to meet at Stuart B. Lumpkins Stadium to condition and utilize the weight room. The ongoing rain and field conditions were not at all suitable for the team to practice on the turf playing surface on the campus of Waxahachie High School, let alone Richards Park’s natural field. The first tragedy then struck, when projected starting shortstop Austin Elbert was involved in a fatal two-car accident on U.S. Highway 287 at approximately 1:51 p.m. Elbert, a senior, had departed the high school campus for the afternoon practice. The fall baseball season was slated to begin that afternoon. It was supposed to be the first taste of a “new normal” for Mata and the Indians. That restart was ultimately delayed a week, though their return to Paul Richards Park was anything but “normal.” Each pitch, ground ball, swing and run scored was “the first” since losing a teammate and brother. A tribute to Elbert now sits inside the front gates in the form of a green-and-white metal bench. It serves as a daily reminder that we are not granted another out. Mata said in the days and weeks that followed Elbert’s passing, he made sure to “have side conversations with teammates.” As you’ll come to find out, Mata is a young man of few words. He often, especially early on during the fall season, would sit silently inside the Indians’ dugout. From his propped-up position on the bench back, Mata remained present and engaged. But it was apparent to anyone who walked by that he preferred the solidarity. The fall season eventually came and went, and the calendar turned to 2021. Heartbreak again struck just two weeks into the new year. **** “Honestly, from what I remember, Anthony started playing ball before he was five years old, and my dad had never missed a tournament,” recalled Michael Mata, Anthony’s older brother, during a National Signing Day ceremony at the high school on Feb. 3. “He had never missed a game. What he wanted more than anything was to see Anthony sign and continue his career.” And Mata did just that — he inked a national letter of intent that afternoon with perennial junior college power Navarro College. The celebration was somber, however. Twenty days prior, their father, Pete Mata, 54, had passed away from COVID-19 complications. Pete battled the respiratory illness for the better part of two weeks before passing on Jan. 14. Hospital restrictions allowed the family very little time at Pete’s bedside to support the dedication, supportive and rock of a father, grandfather and friend. To date, the Texas Department of State Health Services has reported 310 COVID-19-related deaths in Ellis County. There had been 225 fatalities attributed to the virus in the county as of Jan. 13. “It’s hard with my dad not being here,” said Mata, who stood with both hands in his pockets shortly after the signing while near the back of the stage. As he spoke, those filing out of the auditorium were quick to give him a quick congratulatory pat on the shoulder or handshake. “But I know he is looking down on us, and I know he is watching.” Mata also assured that he never doubted the decision to go the JUCO route. He noted he’d leaned heavily on his family, as well as coaches Tracy Wood (Waxahachie) and Heath Autrey (Corsicana) while mulling his collegiate offers. “[Signing] meant a lot to me and my dad,” the senior third baseman said. “I know [my dad] loved seeing me sign that letter.” “I am very excited,” Mata continued. “It’s going to be fun and there’s going to be a lot of competition [at Navarro]. It’s going to be special. They are a good team and it’s going to be fun.” His elder brother, Michael, again reiterated that the signing day was a point of healing for the family. “Family is our rock,” said Michael as he thanked so many family members for being in attendance. “Our dad was the rock of our family, and it’s sad that he’s not here, but he’s watching us. We are all going to stick together, and that is what my dad taught us.” “[…] Like I told him the day that our dad passed away, this is your moment and you have to use this to push you harder. This is going to make him a man and it is going to make him strong. And it was the same thing that I told when Austin passed. It’s an unfortunate part of life, but you have to keep going. You can’t stop right there. You have to do it for them now.”...

5/7/2021

COLLEGE STATION — Game 1 of their Class 6A Region II bi-district series was disappointing for the Waxahachie Lady Indians. But the team entered Friday with still a chance to return home and bounce back. The Lady Indians fell behind by five runs in the first two innings and couldn’t catch up on Wednesday night as the Bryan Lady Vikings took a 9-3 win at Texas A&M’s Davis Diamond, grabbing a 1-0 advantage in the best of three series. Games 2 and 3 (if necessary) were scheduled for Friday evening at WHS’ Midkiff Athletic Complex and were still on as of mid-afternoon on Friday. The series winner advances to the area round to play either Sachse or Tyler Legacy. The Lady Indians (12-11) stranded nine base runners, and often couldn’t come up with the big hit when needed. Leadoff batter Kadin Vire and Makenae Stone were bright spots, as each batted 2-for-3 with a stolen base and a run scored. Bryten Burns added an RBI and a run scored, and Sam Christian chipped in with an RBI on a squeeze bunt. Kylee Raney pitched the first 4 2/3 innings and struck out five while walking one, but was charged with four earned runs on eight hits. Sam Jimenez finished up with two runs on two hits in the final 1 1/3 innings. Bryan scored two runs in the first inning and added three more in the second on a pair of triples for a 5-0 lead. The Lady Indians started to chip away with two runs in the top of the third as Christian bunted Stone home and Burns bunted Vire home, then made it 5-3 in the top of the fifth as Burns hustled home on a passed ball. However, the Lady Vikings scored two more runs in each of the fifth and sixth innings to take control of the game. Jessica Adams was 3-for-4 with a homer, a triple and four RBI for Bryan. Kylie Hernandez and Allie Freeman added two hits each as the Lady Vikings had 10 total. ...

4/30/2021

By Travis M. Smith | KBEC Sports A botched double play and heads-up baserunning resulted in a walk-off win for the Waxahachie Indians on Tuesday against Mansfield Lake Ridge. The victory on the Tribe’s Senior Night also clinched a berth into the Class 6A baseball playoffs. Fittingly enough, a pair of seniors — Xavien Thompson and Anthony Mata — rallied the bats at the bottom of the seventh inning for the 5-4 win. “This was super special for our seniors,” junior Jared Thomas said. “Not even to mention that this might be their last game at Richards Park, but for the entire team to give it 100% and for those two do it in that moment, I don’t know, I’m speechless right now.” Thomas (4-2, 1.07 ERA) was, for the most part, sharp on the bump for the Indians. He struck out eight, walked three and scattered seven hits over 6.2 innings of work. He did, however, have to work out of jams in the first and third innings with an Eagle on third base. Senior right fielder Casey Kelly also gunned down a base runner headed to third base in the top of the second. Mata applied the tag with time to spare after Kelly’s one-hop into the bag and on the money. Thomas also drove in the game’s first run when he singled home Kelly in the bottom of the third inning. Four pitches later, Mata singled to plate Jacob Cruz and Thomas for a 3-0 Waxahachie lead. Mata added a third RBI in the bottom of the fifth inning when he singled Thompson home. The RBI was the 31st of the season for the senior third baseman, who is now hitting .280 for the club. Waxahachie carried that 4-0 lead into the top of the sixth inning, which saw Thomas’ luck of stranding runners on base come to an end. Lake Ridge used three singles and a free pass to plate two runs. Two walks and a hit-by-pitch in the top of the seventh-inning then chased Thomas from the game as the junior hit the 110-pitch limit. Kelly entered the game in relief with one out and the bases full of Eagles. He worked quickly to get ahead of the Eagle batter, only to give up a two-run double on a 1-1 count. The gapper tied the game at 4-all. Kelly (7-1, 0.95 ERA) retired the next Lake Ridge hitter on a lineout to Cruz in left field. And that was the difference in the ballgame. Frankly, it was the difference in the Indians’ season. Three weeks ago, a four-run rally late in the game would’ve spelled disaster for the Tribe — just as it did against Duncanville, Mansfield and Midway in the first round of 11-6A play. But Waxahachie has now won four of its past five ballgames, using newfound energy and confidence to do so. “The difference tonight was that we knew locking up this playoff spot wouldn’t be easy,” Thomas said. “Lake Ridge is really good. But we had energy from the very first pitch to the last pitch. We had guys hustling and executing. It’s a lot easier to win when guys are executing and excited to play.” Thompson worked a five-pitch walk to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning. He then advanced to second on Cruz’s groundout to second base. After the Eagles elected to intentionally walk Thomas, Mata dug into the right-handed batter’s box. Mata fouled off a pair of pitches down the third baseline and quickly found himself in a 1-2 hole. He then dribbled one to the Lake Ridge second baseman and beat the throw that pulled the first baseman off the bag. The potential double-play ball was bobbled, dropped and then hurried toward the general area of first base. All the while, Thompson put on the jets from second and scored easily following a head-first slide into home for the walk-off win. Mata, who finished 2-for-4 with 3 RBIs, was ultimately named the Waxahachie Glass Corporation Player of the Game for his efforts in sending the Indians back to the 6A playoffs. UP NEXT Waxahachie returns to action Friday on the road against Waco Midway. The first pitch is slated for 7 p.m. The Indians are now 22-8 on the season and currently hold the third spot in the District 11-6A standings with a 9-4 mark. Waco Midway and Mansfield are tied atop the district at 10-3, while Duncanville sits one game back of Waxahachie at 8-5. Lake Ridge is now out of the playoff picture with a 7-6 mark. KBEC 1390AM/99.1FM will continue to carry Waxahachie baseball action on-air and online. ...

4/28/2021

By Travis M. Smith | KBEC Sports Xavien Thompson could very well have saved the Waxahachie Indians’ playoff dreams Saturday afternoon. With the Indians clinging to a 5-3 lead and the basepaths full of DeSoto Eagles, the senior centerfielder watched as a sacrifice flyout plated a run to cut the Waxahachie lead to one run, 5-4. The fly ball reeled in by Justin Smith in right field did record the second out of the top of the seventh, however. The out was ultimately followed by a DeSoto single, double and walk to load the bases. That’s when Thompson entered the chat. In a favorable 1-0 count, DeSoto sophomore Pablo Flores laced what should’ve been a go-ahead single into the left-centerfield gap — Thompson had other plans. Thompson glided to his right to make a highlight-reel catch at a full horizontal extension to snag the third out and seal the one-run Waxahachie victory. The catch not only earned Thompson the designation as the Waxahachie Glass Corporation Player of the Game, but it also kept the Indians in the thick of the District 11-6A playoff race. Waxahachie (21-8, 8-4 in 11-6A) currently sits one game back of district-leading (15-10-1, 9-3) Mansfield. The Tribe is also tied with Waco Midway and Duncanville for the final three district playoff spots. Mansfield Lake Ridge now sits one game back of the top four, despite boasting an 18-7 overall record (7-4 in 11-6A). Anthony Mata (2-1, 2.25 ERA) picked up the win for the Indians on the turf field at the high school Saturday in a game that was initially planned for Friday at Paul Richards Park. The senior tossed 4.2 innings in relief of Jared Thomas. He struck out six, walked two and allowed just two runs (one earned) on 59 pitches. “What we have to mention is Mata coming in and shutting the door for us,” Waxahachie head baseball coach Tracy Wood told KBEC Sports. “He threw strikes and is a guy we definitely have to talk about for sure.” Thomas struck out four in his two innings of work. Waxahachie has now won four of its past five district games, with the lone loss coming in a 3-1 decision against Mansfield on April 17. UP NEXT The Indians return to action Tuesday for Senior Night festivities at Paul Richards Park. Waxahachie is slated to face Mansfield Lake Ridge at 7 p.m., with the senior recognition to follow. “We need to win that,” said Wood, noting the Indians could go from second to out of the playoff picture with two games to play. The Indians previously defeated the Eagles, 2-0, on April 1 in Mansfield....

4/27/2021

Jud Willett competed in the 6A region II golf tournament at Bear Ridge Golf Club in Waco on April 19-20. He shot 79-85 for a total of 164 and tied for 47th place in a 96 player field. When asked what he felt was special about the experience, he said, "There's a feeling of belonging to a more elite group of golfers. Everybody is there for one reason, to compete to play in the state tournament." When asked what he took away from his experience of playing in the tournament, Jud stated, "It's important to slow down, think everything through, and make sure you're focused on what shot you're trying to hit." With Jud being a sophomore, he has two more years to hone his skills to vie for competing in the state championship. He feels like he knows what he needs to improve upon to achieve that goal. "Overall, it was a fun experience and I learned a lot from playing at a higher level than I've ever played before. I can't wait to go through the process of improving and hopefully getting all the way to the state tournament. I have a huge summer of high-level golf planned to get me going in that direction! ...

4/27/2021

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