WATSON — After giving up two runs in the first inning, Walker pitcher Lane Thomas walked over to his father to ask for advice.
It wasn’t a particularly long conversation, and his dad didn’t make any inspirational speeches. His words were as simple as “get ahead” in the count and “keep the ball low”, because the strong wind was carrying balls in the outfield.
His father apparently knew best as Thomas responded by throwing four innings of shutout baseball, sparking the Wildcats to a 5-2 come-from-behind win against district rival Live Oak.
“I kind of struggled, but after (talking to my dad), I started getting ahead,” Thomas said. “The hits, they kept dinking them off, and they went to my fielders and they just got outs.”
Starting in the second inning, the sophomore retired nine consecutive batters before giving up another hit in his fifth and final inning.
Thomas (2-1) finished the day allowing two runs on five hits while striking out five and walking three on 91 pitches.
“Once he wore himself down a little bit, he got better,” Walker coach Randy Sandifer said. “Once he got to about the 50-pitch mark, he kind of settled in to how he’s pitched all year.
“For a sophomore coming in, the first battle of going through district … he handled that very well.”
Sandifer said the Wildcats (13-9, 2-0) lacked focus going into the game, and it took several innings before they began executing at the level he expects.
Walker struggled to make proper reads on fly balls in the outfield as the wind pushed what would have been routine pop ups to the warning track.
The offense was just as slow in developing momentum, failing to score a run until the fourth inning.
Walker took advantage of Live Oak (10-11, 0-2) errors to put a run on the board.
“I’m glad to get the win. Right now, that’s all we’re after,” Sandifer said. “No style points, just trying to collect Ws.”
All four of Walker’s runs in the fourth inning were unearned. The only earned run Live Oak starting pitcher Hayes Legendre allowed was an RBI single by Thomas in the fifth inning, which ended his day on the mound.
Legendre gave up five runs on seven hits, while striking out six and walking two.
Live Oak’s only runs came on a two-RBI double by designated hitter Dillon Wang.
“They’re routine plays,” Live Oak coach Greg Briggs said. “All three of the guys that made the errors have made those plays all year, and they just didn’t make them in that situation. That opened the door. They scored four runs, and offensively, we weren’t good enough to come back.”