Walker, Abilene Wylie silence Lubbock High for seventh straight victory
Sam Walker, primarily a reliever last year, worked hard during the summer in hopes of earning a starting role.
He did, but a nagging arm injury set him back a bit.
In fact, the senior righthander didn’t make his second start until Saturday, when the Wylie baseball team faced off against District 4-5A rival Lubbock High.
Walker tossed a two-hitter and got plenty of help from his offense as the Bulldogs ravaged the Westerners 11-0 in five innings at Wylie High School.
“It definitely helps with the confidence of it and just getting a feel of the pitches and the environment on the mound and having to deal with all the pressure,” Walker said about adjusting to his new role. “Just that mindset coming back. It felt really good.”
Walker struck out four and didn’t allow a walk. He faced three batters over the minimum – two on singles, including an infield hit, and a throwing error by Walker.
“It was nice to see him be able to stretch it out a little bit today and get some innings under his belt,” Wylie coach Grant Martin said.
The Westerners (4-12-1 overall, 0-5 district) got only two runners past first base – both in the fourth inning. One was picked off at second and the other was stranded at third.
Walker knew there were some spots open for a starter coming into this season, after working as a reliever for the Bulldogs last season.
“I worked really hard during the summer and had a great summer,” Walker said. “I just kept at it. In the back of my mind, I knew it might happen.”
However, he suffered a setback before the season started. One day while throwing a bullpen session, he felt discomfort in his arm.
“It didn’t feel right,” Walker said.
While there was no real injury, he was told the arm needed some rest. He underwent physical therapy for a month.
“It was a real bummer,” Walker said. “Kind of tendonitis and inflammation. It definitely could have been worse, which I’m really grateful for.”
Walker made his first appearance in a March 4 start against Godley during a tournament. He pitched two scoreless innings, giving up two hits and striking out five in three innings. He didn’t get a decision in a 2-1 loss.
Walker said he was limited to 40 pitches in that game, and he was given the green light to throw 60, maybe 70 pitches in his second start against Lubbock High.
“Just for the sake of my arm and my health and stuff,” Walker said. “But Coach handed it over to me and asked if I felt good. I was honest with him and told him I was. He let me go, and I was fortunate to throw a very good five innings. We played a great game. Defense was there. It was a great game all around.”
Bulldogs come out swinging
Wylie (11-5-1, 5-1) got all the runs it needed with a four-run first inning.
Braden Regala led off with a bunt single, took second on an errant pickoff throw by the catcher and third on K.J. Long’s sacrifice bunt. After Reese Borho walked, Regala scored on Tye Briscoe’s single. Borho later scored on a passed ball, and Sipe Hays capped the inning with a two-run single.
The Bulldogs added five runs in the third inning. Borho doubled and scored on Briscoe’s single. Then after Walker drew his second consecutive walk, Gavin Nelson hit a pinch-hit, two-run double. Sipe followed with an RBI double, and he scored on Kooper Jones’ single.
Lubbock High had its best chance to score in the fourth inning. Harley Rojas led off with an infield hit, and he took third when Ivan McGwire reached on a two-base throwing error by Walker. However, Walker got a strikeout, then picked off the runner at second before getting a fly ball to preserve the shutout.
“That felt really good to make up for it in a way,” Walker said about the pickoff of the guy who had reached on his throwing error.
Briscoe and Walker both hit RBI singles in the fifth to end the game on the 10-run rule in the Bulldogs’ 11-hit attack.
“I thought we did what we needed to do,” Martin said. “We talked before the game that we were going to have to sit back and hit the ball on a line. We did that. We did a great job of hitting it to right field today and getting guys on. It went our way. Sam did a great job on the mound. We played great defense behind, so I was really pleased.”
The Nos. 3-5 hitters in Wylie’s lineup – Borho, Briscoe and Walker – reached in each of their three at-bats and accounted for seven runs and four RBIs, including three by Briscoe.
“Those guys, they’ve done a good job for all year long,” Martin said. “Really, from top to bottom I thought we hit the ball well this week.”
It’s Wylie’s seventh straight win, and the Bulldogs have scored 10 or runs in four of those games, including their last three.
And those last three games have come on successive days, while the Bulldogs have played six games in the last eight days.
“Our kids need a little rest right now, but I was very pleased with how it went this week,” Martin said.
Wylie has a bye on Tuesday before hosting Abilene High on Friday in a league game. The Bulldogs have played one-third of their district schedule thus far. Each team will play its league rival three times this season. They beat the Eagles 6-0 in the first meeting March 10 at Blackburn Field. Wylie's lone district loss was a 4-2 decision at Lubbock Monterey on March 7. They haven't lost since.
Walker, who said he felt fine after Saturday’s start, is eager to continue contributing to his team – be it on the mound or at the plate.
“I’m just looking forward to the rest of it,” Walker said. “We’re playing good baseball right now, and I know we can keep on going.”
This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: Abilene Wylie shuts out Lubbock High in District 4-5A baseball game