To say Branson’s Tyler Whiteis is hot right now would be a gross misrepresentation of the facts.
He’s downright torrid.
During the three games of the Class 5 District 11 tournament in Branson this week, Whiteis reached base safely in 14 consecutive plate appearances.
But on the mound on Tuesday, the senior right-hander was just as dominant, scattering six hits over six innings, as sixth-seeded Branson beat fifth-seeded Nixa, 4-2, for the district title.
“I made one out the whole tournament and that was my first at-bat,” Whiteis said. “I had struggles throughout the year and coach (Troy) Nimmo helped me change some things in the cage and I’m more trusting of myself and I’m seeing pitches better.”
Branson (10-15) will face Willard (20-7) in the Class 5 sectionals next Tuesday at Branson.
The Pirates got on the scoreboard first when Daniel Scott doubled and scored in the second inning for a 1-0 lead.
Nixa (15-12) answered with two runs in the home half of the second for a 2-1 lead, with RBI singles from senior Austin Hyde and junior Kyle Robillard, but that’s all Nixa could muster against Whiteis.
The Eagles stranded seven runners over six innings against Whiteis, and Branson senior Barrett White stranded two more in a scoreless seventh to earn the save.
At the plate, Whiteis continued his blistering pace with an RBI single in the decisive fourth inning, when Branson scored three runs and took a 4-2 lead.
The Pirates scored all three runs with two outs, including a two-run single from junior Lake Keller.
“We didn’t finish one inning,” Nixa coach Howard Greenwood said. “We had two outs, with nobody on, and the 7-8-9 (hitters) coming up and they score three runs.
“That’s part of baseball, but that is really hard to live with. That’s the memory that I’ll take to bed with me tonight.”
At the plate, Whiteis went 3-for-3 with an RBI. On the hill, he gave up one earned run on six hits and got the win on just two days rest.
“We got some gutsy pitching performances out of some kids, like Whiteis coming back on two days rest and he gutted through today,” Branson coach Troy Nimmo said. “He pitched four innings on Saturday, but he wanted the ball today and he’s a senior and he said he was fine and I trusted him.”
Keller was 1-for-4 with two RBIs in the victory for Branson.
“In the regular season, we had spurts of greatness but we couldn’t finish games,” Keller said. “We had a little rough spot, but we have turned it on here at the end.
“Now we’ve got everything put together, we’re meshing and we’re playing good baseball. It’s a great feeling.”
Hyde was 2-for-3 with an RBI and sophomore Dustin Sipes went 2-for-4 to lead Nixa.
The district was turned upside down on Monday when Nixa knocked off top-seeded Ozark (3-1) and Branson beat second-seeded Kickapoo (5-1).
“Nobody picked us to be here and nobody picked Branson to be here, either,” Greenwood said. “But we knew at the seeding meeting that any one of the six teams could win this district and I think the two teams that were playing the best, played today.”