Italy — After enduring sporadic practice and playing time due to foul weather the past couple of weeks, the Gladiators still managed to open district play in good form against the visiting Faith Family Academy Eagles out of Waxahachie.
Junior Gladiator pitcher Ty Windham was on target from the mound with teammate John Escamilla ready for his senior season behind the plate. The Eagles batted first and got two runners on base. Windham soon settled in and recorded 2 strikeouts in the top of the first-inning while senior first baseman Tyler Vencill caught a pop-up to help keep the Eagles off the board early.
Junior leadoff hitter Levi McBride got on base for the Gladiators to start the bottom half of the inning. John Byers would battle his way into a free trot down to first-base while McBride wasting no time in stealing both second and third-base. A balk by the Eagle pitcher would score McBride and Italy led 1-0 after one inning of play.
Windham continued his aim and quickly collected three more strikeouts to put the pressure back on the Eagle pitcher. Vencill earned a walk for Italy followed by a precise bunt down the third-base line by junior teammate Clayton Miller. Thanks to some Eagle fielding errors, Miller used the bunt to score Vencill for an RBI before lapping the bases to make the score 3-0 in favor of Italy. “Beautiful bunt,” exclaimed Gladiator head coach Jon Cady who waved in Vencill and Miller from third.
Windham delivered a single shot to short and was replaced by pinch runner Jorge Galvan. Galvan stole third then McBride was walked to put two runners on for Italy. Galvan would steal third-base before scoring after a passed ball found its way to the backstop, 4-0 Italy. McBride made his way over to third and then junior Ryan Connor was walked by the Eagles to post Gladiators at first and third. Connor took second before Byers smacked a liner over the Eagle’s third baseman to score McBride and Connor. Italy up 6-0.
Senior Cody Boyd was walked to join Byers on the bases. John Escamilla kept the good times rolling when his infield hit resulted in a trip to third-base after a series of poor throws by the Eagle defense. Boyd reached home during the confusion as did Byers who snuck in with a slide across the plate to make the score 8-0 in favor of the Gladiators.
Fortenberry crunched a long-ball into deep center over the heads of the Eagles. Fortenberry reaches third base and turns and thinks about going home but is held up by Coach Cady. Escamilla trotted in to give Italy a 9-0 advantage. Vencill follows Fortenberry’s shot with a swat of his own into deep center. Vencill doubles and Fortenberry scurries home to put Italy up 10-0. Miller singles but Faith Family finally secures a third out to move the game into the top of the next inning.
Windham stayed on the mound and again sat Eagles down, 1, then 2, and then 3 for three more strikeouts to retire the side. In the bottom of the third, McBride singled to restart Italy’s offensive attack. McBride quickly stole second. Connor blasted a double to score McBride, 11-0 Italy. With Byers at the plate, Connor stole third-base. Byers grounded one to the mound and was thrown out at first-base. Byers did record his third RBI of the game, however, when Connor sprinted home to make the score 12-0.
The Eagles secured a third out and the game entered the top of the fourth-inning. Faith Family kept the faith and finally managed to get runners on base with a pair of Eagles at both second and third. With the Eagles’ desperate to erase the zero showing on their side of the scoreboard, Windham regrouped and struck out an Eagle batter for the first out. Byers, covering third-base, and Escamilla, still at catcher, caught an overly eager Eagle runner in a rundown between third and home. Escamilla threw to Byers, Byers threw back to Escamilla, and then Escamilla tossed over the top to Connor who filled in for Byers at third to make the tag. Two away in the top of the fourth for Italy.
Connor and Miller tried to hookup and catch the remaining Eagle runner before he could get back to second-base. Miller made a great catch but was too far away from the bag to make the tag. As the dust and feathers settled from all the excitement, Windham went to work on the next the Eagle batter to record his 10th strikeout of the contest and get Italy’s defense off the field.
Vencill drives his second shot of the game into centerfield for a single. Windham is next with a double into centerfield to score Vencill and give the Gladiators a 13-0 lead. McBride doubles with a liner getting past the Eagles’ second baseman to score Windham. Italy takes a 14-0 edge into the top of the fifth-inning.
Windham remained on the rubber and finished off the Eagle batters with three more strikeouts for a total of 13 strikeouts for the game. Italy begins district play 1-0 and have now won 11 straight district games going back to last season when they were the undefeated district champs.
The JV Gladiators got in some game practice against visiting Crandall before the start of the varsity game. Gary Escamilla started the game at catcher and Kendrick Norwood started on the mound for Italy.