HS Baseball: Willis Rides Scoring Surge to Victory Over Grand Oaks

By: Jake Wilson
| Published 03/22/2024


SPRING, TX -- The Willis Wildkats went into hostile territory and came out with a 4-1 win against the Grand Oaks Grizzlies to keep the team inside the district playoff picture.

With mounting pressure to prevent the team from slipping out of the hopes of making the playoffs, both squads took to the field in the first inning with fireworks on their minds.

After surrendering two outs, Willis’ Greg Moore got on base with the game's first walk. A wild pitch and another walk put two runners on for the Wildkats, and a crack of the bat from Mason Dutton brought Moore home for a 1-0 lead in the top of the first.

Two runners were stranded following the RBI, but the message was solidified early that the Wildkats were ready to swing if it meant getting a lead.

In response, Grand Oaks took to the plate and got aggressive on the bags. A lead-off single from Parker Blackman got a runner on, and a sacrifice bunt advanced him with little cost. Bennett Hale stepped up next and swung confidently, resulting in an RBI double to tie the affair at one run apiece.

A scoreless second inning left more runners stranded for both teams. The building tension between the squads was reaching its breaking point, and Willis would be the one to tip the scale in their favor.

A lead-off walk situated the team with a free runner before a follow-up single advanced Seth Sloan into scoring position. Another walk loaded the bases with none out for the Wildkats, and all it took was a sacrifice fly to right field to bring Sloan home.

The Wildkats were still tacking on runs with the situation they had worked to provide themselves. A two-run RBI from Dylan Hawthorne punctuated an explosive inning for Willis that ended with the team up 4-1.

In an exclusive interview with The Woodlands Online Sports, Willis Head Coach Brett Washburn spoke on the relief of getting an early lead with a solid pitcher on the mound.

“Austin [Gaskins] pitches are what we’ve run off a couple of times this year,” said Washburn. “So anytime we can give him a lead, it’s a pretty good feeling.”

Unlike their early effort to tie the game, the Grizzlies struggled to recapture the same momentum to retie the game again.

Rock-solid fielding from the Wildkats anchored a steady performance on the mound from Gaskins, and Willis’ lead continued to remain unreachable.

Every time the Grizzlies had a chance to put runners on base or advance runners into scoring position, the Wildkats managed to escape with relative ease.

Willis’ confidence gradually built within the dugout, and their play on the field mirrored their growing swagger as a continual shutout from the first inning continued.

“We have a trust in our defense. Anybody that we put out there, they’re going to make a play,” said Washburn. “In the dugout, everybody loves one another, and it’s always fun whenever you’re friends with everybody.”

The defense continued to keep the Wildkats in a comfortable position, with their lead never coming into jeopardy. Blistering throws from the outfield made infield tags a possibility, and succinct communication ensured the entire team was on the same page.

Grand Oaks’ best chance at a tie was in the bottom of the sixth inning, with runners on first and second with none out. Disaster struck when an outfield fly turned into a double play after a throw from rightfield zipped through the air to third for a tag out that sucked the air out of the Grizzly dugout.

The Grizzlies only managed to get one more runner on before the end of the game. The bottom of the seventh ended with another scoreless effort from Grand Oaks, and the final result of 4-1 was a welcome sight for the Wildkats.

Willis remains in the hunt for a potential playoff spot inside the district’s packed postseason picture.

“Pitching and defense is going to put us in every single ballgame,” said Washburn. “This district is stacked with pitching, and the bats might not always be there. But if we can play defense and pitch, it’s going to be close every time.”

Both teams will return to the field against one another on Saturday.

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