Byron Nelson scored three runs in the top of the sixth and senior pitcher Ethan Thomas allowed two hits and struck out seven in the Bobcats’ 4-0 win at Keller Central on Tuesday night.
But for one evening, it wasn’t about the strikes, balls or even district standings.
It was about 9-year-old Khloe Brandon.
A third grader at Lone Star Elementary, Brandon was diagnosed with Leukemia in December. She threw out the first pitch on Tuesday as part of Central’s 3rd annual Strike Out for Cancer Night.
“This year was extra special to us because Khloe goes to Lone Star, which is a feeder pattern to our school,” Central baseball coach Kyle Watson said. “We just try to brighten kids’ days when it comes to stuff like this.”
Brandon was at her grandparents’ home the weekend before Christmas and playing with her cousins when they noticed she had a number of bruises, more than normal.
“We got home and circled them all and she had 34,” mother Nicole said. “We thought maybe she was low on iron so we took her in the day before Christmas for some blood work.”
“We couldn’t get in with a pediatrician because it was Christmas time so we went to urgent care in Alliance and then straight to Cooks for lab work,” father Paul added. “We were admitted that night and the next morning they came in and told us it was Leukemia.”
The treatment is a 2 1/2 year process for Brandon with the first six months being the most intense, but luckily for the Brandons, Khloe’s cancer is one of the most curable with a 90 percent survival rate.
“We’re very blessed that she has a cancer that is very treatable,” said Paul, who is a survivor of Hodgkins lymphoma.
Khloe and her parents went to the mound for the first pitch on Tuesday, followed by a group photo with the Central and Nelson baseball teams.
“It’s special to be apart of it and we’re honored to be here,” Nelson coach Mike Killian said. “Really the game doesn’t matter, it’s about the game of life and she’s battling for her life so it puts things in perspective.”
Both teams are also raising money for their series this week. The two play at Byron Nelson on Friday night. More than $800 was raised on Tuesday from selling Central and Nelson shirts with all the proceeds going to Texas Cowboys Against Cancer, a non-profit organization that helps provide assistance to individuals and families while battling cancer.
Prior to Tuesday’s game, $750 had been raised.
“She was very excited about it,” Nicole said. “It’s probably the biggest deal for her. We have such a great community with Lone Star and Central, it’s been amazing.”
Added Lone Star principal Steve Hurst, “She’s a wonderful kid and always happy. She’s done a great job through this whole thing. It’s been tough on her, but she’s kept a good attitude throughout. Central has that small town feel now even within the Keller school district. The community supports her.”