Sherman had a tough assignment for its first home game of the 2017 season Thursday evening: Taking on a Class 6A Cedar Hill team that was on a roll.
“They’ve got a pretty good club,” Bearcats head coach Justin Jennings said. “They’re very good offensively, one of the best offensive clubs we’ve seen up to this point.”
But junior right-hander Harrison Key and the Bearcats’ defense were equal to the task.
Key pitched six solid innings and allowed only three runs, striking out five; and Sherman used a three-run third inning to take the lead for good in a 5-3 victory at Veterans Field in their first game in the inaugural Grayson County Classic.
The Bearcats (6-6) took on Fort Worth Christian (15-2-1) in the late game Thursday night.
The most beneficial thing the 6-foot-4 Key was able to do was keep crooked numbers off the scoreboard. Cedar Hill stranded eight base runners in all, including leaving the bases loaded without a score in the second inning.
“I just felt great today,” Key said. “I just kept doing my motions, doing what I’ve got to go with. My defense stayed strong behind me.”
Jennings said Key had struggled early on in his last two starts.
“His command hasn’t been real good early on, and it was kind of the same thing today,” Jennings said. “His command wasn’t where it needed to be. He settled down and got better as the game went on, and did a good job. He’s going to pitch quite a bit for us and he’s got to continue to get better and start faster when he comes from the pen.”
Key scattered eight singles, walked two and hit a batter.
Senior Jack LeCrone took over in the seventh and slammed the door shut with a 1-2-3 top of the seventh to earn a save.
“Jack’s taken the closer role and solidified it,” Jennings said. “He’s a two-pitch guy, but they’re two plus pitches. He’s got a good two-seam (fastball), and his changeup is pretty quality.”
The Longhorns scratched out the game’s first run on a game-opening single, a wild pitch, a sacrifice bunt and an RBI base hit. They did much of the same in the top of the third on a leadoff hit, two stolen bases and bloop single to go up 2-0.
It took the Bearcats one time through the lineup to solve Cedar Hill left-hander Jerry Farrell, who retired six of the first seven Sherman batters he faced.
Then the Cats went to work in the home half of the third, with Trey Holtzclaw reaching on an error at second to start things off. David Bedgood walked and Brayshon Savage lined a single to center to load the bases with one out.
LeCrone walked to force in the first run, Blaine Bethel hit into a fielder’s choice to tie the game, and Connor Hughes singled sharply past second base to score Savage with the go-ahead run.
The Bearcats chased Farrell in the fourth and greeted new pitcher Anthony Castanyeda with a safety squeeze bunt by Nick Blankenship, scoring Chace Fulton from third.
Fulton added an insurance tally with a leadoff home run to left in the bottom of the sixth.
“Chace has done that a couple of times,” Jennings said. “Early on in the scrimmages, he hit a couple of balls off the wall. He’s had some good AB’s and is a guy who’s a great fit down at the bottom because he runs well and he’s got a little pop.”
Fulton finished 2-for-3 with two RBI and two runs scored. His only out was a screaming liner to third base.
Cedar Hill (8-3) started its day with a 17-5 rout of Sulphur Springs, putting a dozen runs on the board in the first inning alone as first baseman Ihsan Jones drove in five. Sherman’s Key was able to limit Jones to a single, a fielder’s choice and a walk with no damage done.
“I hate to say we underestimated (Cedar Hill) a little bit, but we did going into it,” Jennings said. “We saw them play Sulphur Springs and they swung it very, very well. Our kids had a little better idea of what to expect after seeing them play.”
The Grayson County Classic continues today and Saturday at both Sherman and Denison. The Bearcats will host McKinney at 7 p.m. tonight at the Vet and will bring down the curtain on the event at 7 p.m. Saturday against Carrollton Turner.
Then comes the District 5-5A opener Tuesday night, which Key and all the Bearcats are already pointed toward.
“If we keep playing the way we are, we’re going to be good in the district,” Key said.