Arlington Martin senior Zack McJilton swatted a single, double and triple and scored three runs in his baseball team’s 9-1 victory against Arlington Bowie in the District 4-6A opener for both teams.
But to fully appreciate the second baseman’s impact on the game, you’d need to see the large swath of reddish dirt staining the front of his camouflage-style home jersey.
“I’m a mother’s worst nightmare,” McJilton said.
The real nightmare wasn’t the jersey in need of Tide detergent. It was the junior season he missed with a right shoulder injury. McJilton was hurt in the fall of his junior year. As a result, he was one of two starting infielders for the Warriors to miss the entire 2016 season.
“It hurt us not having a second baseman and shortstop,” Martin coach Curt Culbertson said.
McJilton’s journey back to health began with designated hitter duties in the summer. He resumed infield duties this past fall. But returning to the field was no easy feat.
“It took four months before I could start to throw again,” McJilton said of his recovery. “But basically I had to learn to throw again, because I never had a shoulder with stability.”
His return to the middle infield and the lineup has stabilized a Martin squad looking to win the district after falling short of that goal a season ago. The Warriors won district and reached the state tournament in 2014 and 2015.
“Last year was a down year for us,” senior pitcher Kenneth Waller said. “But we’ve got some good players, we played well in the tournaments and we have pitching.”
Waller provided pitching in a dominant fashion in the district opener. The Texas Tech signee surrendered just two hits and one unearned run in a complete-game effort. Even though Waller didn’t need a lot of run support, he appreciated Martin’s potent bats.
The Warriors broke a 1-1 tie with a four-run bottom of the third, meaning Waller pitched with the lead from the middle of the game on. “Last year in district, we struggled scoring runs,” Waller said. “So it was nice to see us coming into district putting up some runs.”
Waller was able to work out of a few jams with his fastball. He registered 10 strikeouts against Bowie.
“I felt pretty good,” Waller said. “I started slow a couple innings. I worked through it. My teammates made plays behind me. I was able to finish.”
About the only thing that didn’t go right for Waller was walking four batters, which led to a high pitch count. Culbertson wasn’t enthused about the 106 pitches Waller needed to get through the game. But he was otherwise impressed by Waller’s outing.
“You go over 100 pitches in seven innings: He threw too many balls,” the coach said. “They didn’t get but two hits. He threw too many balls. But he got the job done.”
The Warriors got the job done in their district opener without the services of University of Texas signee Tristen Lutz. The slugger should return soon from an injury. Good thing for Martin there’s no one player who is counted on to deliver the key hit.
“There’s no gap in our lineup,” McJilton said. “Every single person can get a hit at any time. Any time there’s runners on, there’s a scoring threat.”
McJilton’s enjoying being a part of that loaded lineup. “It’s great,” McJilton said. “I’m blessed to be back out here competing.”
For McJilton and the Warriors, the nightmare is over.
Nick Weiler-Babb, a 2014 Arlington Martin graduate, and Nia Roberts, who graduated from Arlington Bowie the same year, are competing in the NCAA Division I basketball tournaments. Roberts’ team, Texas Southern, begins play Saturday against Baylor, while Weiler-Babb and his Iowa State Cyclones have already defeated Nevada and will take on Purdue on Saturday.
The Arlington Soccer Association brings back its Player Development Program beginning March 20. Partnering with Challenger Soccer Academy, the program features fundamentals lessons by Brazilian and British professional coaches.
Age groups are 5-9, 9-16 and 8-16 years old (for goalkeepers). Lessons are Monday and Wednesday evenings and cost a one-time fee of $10.
Stephen English: firstname.lastname@example.org, @sbenglish74