SANGER — Sanger senior Ted Wisdom doesn’t remember the name of the pitcher from Melissa, but he remembers everything else.
He remembers the count of two balls and two strikes, the curveball that Wisdom thought missed the strike zone.
Unfortunately for Wisdom, the umpire saw things differently. Wisdom struck out.
“Oh well,” Wisdom said with an unmistakable drawl. “It happens.”
For Wisdom, it happens — once. Wisdom’s offensive prowess is only one of the ways the shortstop has helped the Indians reach this weekend’s best-of-three Class 3A Region II quarterfinal series against Argyle (25-7-1). Game 1 is scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday at Ponder.
To call Wisdom a tough out is quite an understatement. He’s batting .520 on the season and has walked 18 times, struck out once and stolen 30 bases.
In 16 plate appearances in the playoffs, he has been retired twice.
Sanger coach Steve Ford said that during a game this season Wisdom thought about swinging at a pitch but instead checked his swing at the last moment. The ball still hit the bat as he roped it into foul territory.
“The coach for the other team said, ‘Man, even when he doesn’t mean to swing he hits the ball,’” Ford said.
The coach, who’s led the Indians (24-6-1) to a school-record number of wins this season, said Wisdom took a belt-high fastball for a strike in the first pitch of an at-bat. Ford was a little curious as to why Wisdom took the pitch, and his curiosity grew when Wisdom chased a pitched out of the strike zone.
But sure enough, Wisdom roped a single later in the at-bat.
“I’m just going to let him go about his business,” Ford said. “I might chirp at one of my other players about taking a fastball for a strike, but it doesn’t matter what count or where he is. He’s going to fight it off until you make another mistake, and he’s going to put it in play — hard.”
His recent oral committment to Northern Oklahoma College in Tonkawa, Okla., is because of more than just his prowess at the plate. Ford lauded all the other abilities that enabled Wisdom to become one of the team’s three captains and somebody the coach said his players gravitate toward.
“Without a doubt, he’s the MVP of the team, in more than just numbers and his baseball ability,” Ford said. “His character, his integrity, his academics, his spirituality, his leadership — every quality that you could come up with that you would want for a player in a program, he exemplifies.”
There were times this season when icy weather threatened the Indians’ routine of heading to Sanger Middle School to work out. Wisdom made sure that didn’t happen. The coaches unlocked the weight room and a few players worked in the old weight room with heat in the corners of the ceiling that takes too long to reach the floor.
Another day, when Ford had training on a Monday morning, Wisdom helped round up the team and squeeze in a workout at 6:30 a.m.
“That was all Ted, and it’s been him all year,” Ford said. “They look to him because he’s the best player, but they also look to him because he is who he is.”
Wisdom was a Texas Sports Writers Association Class 3A all-state selection last season as a first baseman, but Ford asked Wisdom to move to shortstop this year to help the team. Wisdom had no complaints.
Wisdom and fellow senior Austen Lange have been big contributors since they were freshmen.
In Sanger’s bi-district playoff series against Aubrey, Lange said Wisdom gathered the Indians for a little pep talk.
“We were having a pretty shaky couple of innings,” Lange said. “He called us up on the mound and said this isn’t how we play, let’s get everything going. We ended up run-ruling them.”
It didn’t hurt that Wisdom went 4-for-4 with a double and three RBIs in Game 2 of the series.
Wisdom will face two of the area’s best pitchers — Argyle senior left-handers Drew Gooch (signed with TCU) and Parker Mushinski (Texas Tech).
Still, the Sanger coach likes Wisdom’s odds.
“I’ll be surprised if he strikes out against them,” Ford said. “They’ll strike out major leaguers, but Ted’s in a zone right now that he’s going to put the bat on the ball.”
After all, there’s only been one time when Wisdom hasn’t been able to keep the ball from pounding the catcher’s mitt at the end of the at-bat.
“That’s always a goal — not to strikeout,” Wisdom said. “It’s part of the game. If it happens, it happens. Luckily it hasn’t happened that much.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.