WATERFORD — There are only 10 kids on the Waterford High baseball team, and Tuesday only nine were healthy enough to go out on the field.
Nine were more than enough, however, as Thomas Longworth's 3-hitter beat Denair 5-0 and kept the Wildcats atop the Southern League.
It was the first start for the sophomore. He pitched in place of his twin brother Russell, the Wildcats' ace.
"Thomas is a smaller kid, probably 5-8 and 140 pounds, but he's got good control of three pitches and throws strikes," coach Steve Marks said. "We stress that message to all our pitchers, go out and throw strikes."
Longworth struck out eight and didn't walk a batter, mixing a curve and changeup with a fastball. His brother is out with a sprained wrist and his return date is uncertain.
It was the ninth win in the last 10 games for Waterford (10-4, 6-0), and its fourth shutout in six league games. The Wildcats have outscored foes 70-8 in their past six games.
"We have seven starters returning and their experience really shows at the plate," said Marks, whose club bats .369 and averages nine runs.
The Wildcats, No. 5 in The Bee's small-school rankings, led 1-0 in the first when Isaiah O'Campo scored on Jordan Marchy's groundout.
It was still a tight game and Waterford led 3-0, before Collen Cole drove in two runs with a two-out single that fell between the shortstop and left fielder.
Marks also credited C.J. De Deaux for the performance of the Wildcats' pitchers.
"We lost our catcher early last year and C.J. came in," Marks said. "He was playing third base, but he's such a great athlete, he was able to make the move. This year, he's improved his skill and he's swinging the bat."
De Deaux didn't play a role in the offense against Denair, but he's batting .528 with 25 RBIs. His defense — "He smothers just about anything off the plate," Marks said — has helped limit Waterford's ERA to 3.89.
"He's quick and has a strong arm," Marks said. "Teams aren't running on him, so I don't have to call for many throws to keep runners close."
Bee staff writer Richard T. Estrada can be reached at email@example.com.