A saying that a friend told Tigers coach Billy Harlan several years back struck him Friday night during Corsicana’s 8-2 victory over Terrell.
It’s about “coaching it or letting it happen.” With the Tigers trailing 2-0 after two innings to winless Terrell, Harlan wasn’t about to “let it happen.”
So he coached. He took his team down the right field line, away from the parents and fans, and let the Tigers know that their intensity through two innings wasn’t acceptable. Harlan could actually be heard all the way back in Corsicana. He was a tad unhappy.
“I’m emotionally tied into the game, so I want them to be that way,” Harlan said. “If we’re not emotionally invested, then that’s just letting it happen.”
Harlan also made his team run from foul pole to foul pole after the game, for about 20 minutes, again sending a message after the Tigers scored eight unanswered runs.
What annoyed Harlan enough to run his team after the game is what happened with one out in the bottom of the third. The Tigers were leading 4-2 with the tying runs on base for Terrell at second and third base. Right fielder Gage Curry made a shoe-string catch in the outfield for the second out and made a laser one-hop throw home. Catcher Aaron Raney made the catch and tagged the runner out for the crucial third out of the inning.
Only one teammate came over and congratulated Curry after the game-turning play.
“Only one person high fives him?” Harlan said. “It’s a district baseball game. If Gage Curry doesn’t make that play, it’s a tie game. If he doesn’t make that throw, it’s 4-3. It just kind of struck me wrong. I wanted them to know that is unacceptable.”
Harlan is trying to push a very talented team to the next level. The Tigers are now 5-1 in District 15-4A, one game behind Mesquite Poteet. The Tigers have a crucial week coming up with a home game Tuesday against third-place Red Oak (4-2) and a road game to Forney on Friday.
“We can solidify the top 1 or 2 after the first round if we decide to play,” Harlan said. “As upset as I was with our effort and intensity, at the end of the day we still won the game convincingly.”
The Tigers won going away because of four shutout innings in relief by Heath Donica, allowing a struggling offense to tack on enough runs to widen the gap against a gritty Terrell team.
Donica had seven strikeouts, working the corners brilliantly, even though he didn’t get the wide strike zone the Tigers have seen during much of this district season.
Donica is a crucial cog pitching-wise to the Tigers hopes to once the make the playoffs, assuming that will happen. Curry and Holden Grounds are both entrenched as starters. Hunter Melton is the closer.
Donica, coming off of elbow surgery, will likely start when the Tigers have two weeks with three games in April, and then in the playoffs. John Gage, who started Friday’s game and allowed two runs in three innings, is also a crucial pitching piece.
With Donica, Harlan is trying to build up momentum heading into April.
“I was very excited for him,” Harlan said. “For him coming off the elbow surgery, him building back, he’s close to where he was.”
The Tigers fell behind Terrell, 2-0, in the first inning. Terrell came into the night with a 4-16 overall record. Harlan decided to rest ace Curry, even though it was his night to pitch, instead going with the left-hander Gage.
Gage struggled with his command early and allowed two runs on three hits in the first inning. After the Tigers went 1-2-3 in the top of the second, Gage pitched valiantly to leave a Terrell runner stranded in scoring position.
Harlan then pulled his team down the right field line and gave them his very vocal pep talk. The Tigers responded with four runs on two hits in the top of the third, stealing three bases. Curry had a key RBI double in the inning.
Grounds had an RBI single in the top of the fifth as the Tigers took a 5-2 lead. Donavan Fields scored on a wild pitch for a 6-2 lead in the sixth.
Corsicana took an 8-2 lead in the top of the seventh on a double by Melton and a RBI single by Cameron Cutrer.
At the end of the night, it was a routine victory with the Tigers, even thought it took a few innings to get emotionally into the game. Harlan coaches for seven intense innings, and he wants that from his team.
“We’re not being who we are,” Harlan said. “We’re a high energy kind of team that gets behind the pitcher. We’re a team that tries to control the pace.”
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