GLEN ROSE – Twenty-five days ago, the Tigers played arguably their least inspired game of the season in a 6-1 loss on the road against Hillsboro. That game featured Grayson Lee striking out nine Tigers, a handful of Glen Rose errors and a drop from a tie for second place in 11-3A to a tie for fourth.
There has since been a culture change. Glen Rose thumped visiting Hillsboro 8-1 Tuesday in a game with serious playoff positioning riding on it. With three games to play, the Tigers are right back where they were just over three weeks ago – in a tie for second in 11-3A.
“I was real proud of our guys and the effort they gave tonight,” Glen Rose Head Coach James Evans said. “They executed small ball to set up runs and then came through at the plate with some clutch hits. They played their tails off tonight. […] The last two ballgames the atmosphere in the dugout has been electric. The kids are excited and having fun. It’s just a good atmosphere in there right now.”
The win – and change in attitude Evans’ ballclub – has been led by the seniors.
In Friday’s 10-4 win over Grandview, Layne McAnear delivered on the mound and at the plate. On Tuesday, it was fellow seniors Devin Crawford and Dylan Hammond who came through in the big spots.
Crawford tossed a complete-game gem. The ace of the Glen Rose staff entered the game averaging 10.1 strikeouts –, 2.4 base-on-balls –, and 4.3 hits – per seven innings with a 1.87 ERA.
On Tuesday, the lefty struck out 14 Eagles, walked three, and allowed one earned run on four hits – right in line with his season average.
The 14 strikeouts – which included six of seven during the third through fifth innings – tied the 2015 school record set by Colten Lane. It is also one fewer than during his no-hitter against Crawford on March 5 in the semi-finals of the Harley “Hogg” Sinclair Memorial Tournament.
The lone run surrendered by Crawford came in the top of the first inning after the first Zebra in the batter’s box roped the first pitch of the game into left-center field for a triple. The Tigers then mishandled an early steal attempt – their only defensive miscue of the game – that allowed for the run to score from third.
“Devin threw 22 pitches in that first inning, but was able to find his groove and became a pitcher after that,” Evans said. “He started spotting up well and did a good job keeping their hitters off balance.”
Glen Rose tied the game in the bottom of the third when Drayton Williams scored his 13th run of the season courtesy of a Lee balk. Williams was moved into scoring position by a Layne McAnear sacrifice bunt – his third of the season.
McAnear was returned the favor in the two innings later when Gus Stoner used a sac-bunt to move him into scoring position. The Glen Rose shortstop scored two throwing errors later for a 2-1 Tiger lead.
“Hillsboro came out and jumped on us 1-0, but our kids fought and knew that we had to score runs to win anyway, so that was the mentality in the dugout. They did what we do, didn’t press and battled.”
With Crawford on cruise control, the Glen Rose offense delivered its knockout blow in the bottom of the fifth inning.
The first three batters of the inning reached – Codey Barker and Tyler Torres via walks and Camron Rush on a bunt single – to load the bases for Hammond. The Glen Rose centerfielder, who was in the midst of a three-game RBI drought, picked up his team-leading 23rd, 24th and 25th RBIs with a two-strike double off of Lee.
“Dylan stayed inside, shortened his swing up and he did a great job of driving it past their infielders playing in,” Evans said. “They ended up throwing the ball around to help clear the three base runners, too. It was huge. He was due. He needed that.”
Hammond scored on a passed ball just before McAnear picked an RBI (16) on a groundout to second base for the first out of the five-run inning.
Barker tacked on a run in the sixth inning to extend the lead to seven runs, 8-1.
Glen Roe left four runners on base to the seven Greyhounds stranded by Crawford.
While not mathematically solidified quite yet, the Tigers are in firm control of their playoff future. With three wins over Millsap, Keene and Rio Vista, the Tigers will be locked into the No. 2 seed in 11-3A. Glen Rose outscored the three by a combined 39-6 the first time through the district cellar-dwellers.
The Tigers will aim to match their season-high three-game winning streak Friday on the road against Millsap. First pitch is slated for 7 p.m.