Cade Searcy

Gainesville junior Cade Searcy prepares a pitch as the Leopards host Wichita Falls.

Tuesday night was a special occasion for the Gainesville baseball team despite its 11-4 district home loss to Wichita Falls.

It was special because two men were honored for their contributions to Gainesville baseball. Gainesville ISD dedicated its high school baseball field to the late Dr. W. Herbert Locke and Charley Henderson, two men who had long played a major role in Gainesville baseball.

Henderson’s family attended Tuesday’s game, and Gainesville recognized them with a pregame ceremony.

Gainesville baseball coach Joe Juarez said it meant a lot to Gainesville to honor Henderson and Locke.

“I think those two guys did a lot for this program and this field and really, this town baseball-wise,” Juarez said. “I think it’s important to honor those kind of people. Gainesville’s a proud town, so getting a chance to do that for that family and those people, I think it’s something that needs to be done for more people like that.”

The Leopards, as well as North Central Texas College, previously played baseball at the now-demolished Locke Field, named after Dr. Locke. Prior to Gainesville and NCTC, Locke Field hosted the minor league Gainesville Owls until they relocated to Ponca City, Oklahoma, in 1955. Locke once served as president of the Owls.

After the Owls left, Locke and Henderson used their own resources to maintain the field so kids in the Gainesville area had a nice place to play, not to mention the Leopards and Lions. Their work kept the field available for many years, though it was finally demolished in 2015.

Juarez said the ceremony was special not only for those being honored, but also for his players.

“I think it’s important (the players) saw it,” Juarez said. “That guy and his family meant a lot. Afterwards, they all gave them a high five and gave them a hug. I think it’s important to see young men see that.”

Once the festivities ended, the game got underway. Gainesville (0-12 overall, 0-3 District 7-4A) took a 2-0 lead in the first inning after Wichita Falls left the bases loaded.

Wichita Falls (7-8, 2-0) answered by scoring 7 runs in the top of the second inning, all with two outs. The Leopards limited the damage the rest of the game but never recovered.

London Daniels led the Gainesville offense, hitting 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs. Noah Green hit 2-for-4 with a run.

Max Neelley pitched 2 2/3 innings in relief, allowing no runs or hits. He struck out two Coyotes and walked four.

Juarez said he saw consistency from Neelley.

“It was good to see him attack the strike zone,” Neelley said. “He didn’t give up any runs. He started off, looked a little nervous, but once he settled in, I was pretty pleased on how he performed.”

Wichita Falls got good pitching from starter T.J. McCraw and reliever Jacob Schultz. Each gave up two runs in his first inning of work but shutout the Leopards afterward. They combined for 10 strikeouts and two walks in seven innings.

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