GLEN ROSE – Before jumping into individual statistics or breakdowns of how to replace players lost to graduation, it is important to remind ourselves of how the season that was became that way. It is also imperative to keep tucked away in a front pocket a reminder that a season which ends in a loss is nearly always a disappointment, but a disappointing end does not constitute a failed season.
There is a difference between disappointment and failure that much is certain.
For the 2016 Glen Rose Tiger baseball team, there is no feasible way to look back a see failure. Even with the Bi-District bow-out that came two rounds earlier than the Regional Quarterfinal appearance in 2015, the 17-9 record was percentage-wise an improvement on last season's 18-10-3 mark, as was the 10-win season in district play.
If the Tigers were to replay either of their two early losses – Carrollton Ranchview in game one or Springtown in game five – it is very likely they enter into District 11-3A with a sparkling 7-win, 0-loss record. Both of the losses, along with early road losses during district play, can feasibly be traced back to the sheer fact that the Tigers’ did not play enough games over the first three weeks of the season.
According to second-year Glen Rose Head Coach James Evans (360-164-5, 35-17-3 in Glen Rose), the handful of games missed were crucial to the development of chemistry and leadership within his ballclub.
“Early in the year we had some guys who were still a little injured and some other guys who were still in the gym playing basketball, so there wasn’t a chance for us to field a full team in that first weekend of tournaments,” Evans said. “Then we had a couple of double headers scheduled that had to cancel because of basketball. We got a few innings in during that second week in our home tournament, but then the rain got us that third week when we should have been playing in the Ponder tournament. We were able to get a double header in against Dublin and Boyd to help carry us into district.
“But, we probably missed out on six to eight games, which would have been crucial to get those innings under our belt.”
The Tigers entered into district play looking to improve on their 9-5 mark in Evans’ first year as the Glen Rose skipper and they would – eventually.
A shellacking on the road against Brock (11-1) was followed by a key home win over Grandview (4-2) and then a stink bomb of a game in Hillsboro put the Tigers in a 1-win, 2-loss hole to begin their district schedule. The team was not so much a team as it was a collection of 14-18 year olds in red and white jerseys. However, in the games and weeks following a culture change was apparent. The seniors became vocal and the hustle was evident on every play.
“After the Hillsboro game we had a big talk about commitment and the lack of senior leadership,” Evans said. “I think it was the turning point, because you could see their reaction to the loss. That is the one good thing about losses is that you hope if something like that happens then it motivates you to do better and you get some good out of it. I think in this case it did.
“Our district was tough and I’ll tell anyone that right now. Anytime you go to Brock and play, or Peaster or Hillsboro, it’s tough to get a win. […] From Grandview on we pretty much did what we needed to do and carried a little momentum with us into the playoffs.”
In this case, doing what they needed to do included finishing the 11-3A schedule with a 10-4 record – one game better than 2015 – and on a five-game winning streak to position themselves into a tie for second place in the standings.
The three-way tie with Peaster and Grandview forced the teams into a season-ending tournament to determine proper playoff seeding. Despite the Tigers holding a 3-1 record against the Greyhounds and Zebras, a random draw gave Evans and company the third seed and long route through the seeding tourney.
“That was kind of unfortunate, because I really felt like we should have been the No. 1 seed and had a bye in the first round of that tournament, but you really can’t do anything about it,” Evans said. “Of course Hammond getting injured in that first game didn’t help much either, but I thought we played Peaster well and they are a good team. It gave us a little edge heading into the playoffs, too.”
As for the 2-1 series loss in the UIL 3A Bi-District round against Palmer, the Tigers played well on paper and on the field. Glen Rose battled back to take a late lead against Bulldog-ace Brock Figueroa in game one before surrendering a walk-off hit in the seventh. Devin Crawford dominated the heart of the Palmer order in the game two win and game three was a rollercoaster from the first pitch.
“We had our opportunities against Palmer,” Evans said. “They came up with that clutch hit in the first game, but then we pretty much dominated the second and then the third game was a back-and-forth game. It was a tough loss for us.”
The Bowie Jackrabbits swept the Bulldogs out of the playoffs over the weekend in Glen Rose – in case you were in need of a little closure.
Next week’s Reporter will shift to the statistical side of the Tigers’ season and will include more from Head Coach James Evans, along with individual records.
Travis M. Smith