Wakeland reliever closes door on No. 1 Heath

FRISCO -- Amid the big sluggers, the real star of the Class 4A Region II best-of-3 series opener turned out to be a 5-6, 140-pound relief pitcher.

Senior Jeff Oracion snuffed out a potential game-changing threat in the sixth inning with a strikeout to help Frisco Wakeland defeat Rockwall-Heath, 14-6, Thursday night at Dr Pepper Ballpark.

Wakeland coach Barry Rose made the call for Oracion after Rockwall-Heath loaded the bases with two out in the bottom of the sixth. Wakeland’s 10-6 lead looked anything but comfortable, especially with menacing 6-3, 230-pound Jake Thompson at the plate.

It turned into quite a battle. After working the count full, Thompson twice fouled off pitches before Oracion finally struck him out swinging to end the threat.

“I got him on an inside fastball,’’ Oracion said. “I threw all fastballs. I guess I challenged him a little, but I didn‘t want to give him anything he could drive.’’

Rose wanted to wait as long as possible for the pitching change because Oracion is his likely starter for Game 2, scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday at Dallas Baptist University. If a third game is needed, it will follow the second game.

“Jeff may be small in stature, but he’s a bulldog,’’ Rose said.

The defeat was only the second of the year for Heath (39-2), ranked No. 1 nationally by ESPN RISE. Heath must beat Wakeland twice on Saturday, otherwise it will fall short of the UIL state tournament.

Wakeland (30-10) scored five runs in the top of the first and never trailed in winning its eighth straight playoff game. Greg McCall set the tone with a two-run home run into the swimming pool beyond the right field wall and Landon Baker added a two-run double.

“When you’re playing a team that is 39-1, you need a start like that,’’ Rose said. “After we got it going, the guys fed off each other.’’

Heath scored four in its half of the first and still trailed by just a run until the sixth when Wakeland left fielder Eric Swann keyed a three-run inning with a double that kicked up chalk in right field.

Oracion finished it by striking out two more Hawks in a scoreless seventh.

Wakeland leadoff man Willie Schwanke scored four runs and went 2-for-3 with two walks. Five other Wolverines had multi-hit games.

For Heath, Trevor Holland was 3-for-4, Jovan Hernandez was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and Bret Boswell had a two-run triple.

Heath stranded runners at third base in the first, third and sixth innings.

Four of the 11 hits allowed by losing pitcher James Baune were for extra bases. He walked five in 5 1/3 innings.

Frisco Wakeland 14, Rockwall-Heath 6

Game 1, Best-of-3 Class 4A Region II series

At Dr Pepper Ballpark, Frisco

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WP -- Hayden Nixon

S -- Jeff Oracion

LP -- James Baune