By Mike Phillips
Corsicana Daily Sun
Want to beat Corsicana’s young and hungry baseball team?
Well, you better be able to handle the bunt, the grit and the no-quit these kids take to the diamond every night.
Just ask Nacogdoches, which was 1-0 in District 16-4A and held a 3-0 lead on the Tiger cubs who didn't have a senior on the field Friday.
But these kids — these kids who are too young and too scrappy and just too tough to quit — were never fazed.
They simply drove the Dragons crazy on the bases and came back to win 7-3 at Price Field, where they improved to 2-0 in the district race. The Tigers (15-4) have now won seven of their last eight games.
This is one of the youngest teams anywhere (there are only three seniors on the roster), but they can give teams gray hair the way they bunt and run the bases, and just when you think you have them on the ropes, a guy like Trevor Nolen bounces back and slams the door.
That was Nolen on the mound Friday, finding a way to stop the damage and then do some damage himself.
He gave up three runs in a nightmare second inning in which he walked three and watched his teammates make two errors on one play. Only one of the runs was earned, but they all counted.
But Nolen and his Tigers counted most in the end.
“After the second inning I settled down,’’ said Nolen, who went 5 2/3 innings and gave up just three hits while striking out four to get the win and improve to 5-1. After the second inning, he retired 10 of the next 12 batters, and struck out four of six in the third and fourth innings. The one Dragon who hit him — Reed Watson, who doubled in the fourth — was erased when Nolen picked him off with a dazzling spin and throw to shortstop Layton Wolver, who nailed Watson with the tag.
If that wasn’t enough, Nolen went 3 for 3 at the plate to help ignite the comeback.
But what he did on the mound would have been plenty.
“He grinded that thing out,’’ Corsicana Coach Heath Autrey said of his sophomore pitcher who catches when he’s not on the mound. “He grinded out every pitch. He gave us a chance. He didn’t have his best stuff tonight, but he competed. That shows you what kind of competitor he is.’’
Nolen said his command was off early.
“I was missing my spots a little,” he said. “Some of it was nerves because it was the first district home game and some of it was trying to do too much, trying to be perfect. But I settled down (after the second inning).’’
He was a part of Corsicana’s comeback at the plate. He singled to left in the second and Preston Hill, who was pinch-running for Nolen, scored Corsicana’s first run of the game on a wild pitch. Then the Tigers erupted for four runs in the third.
Wolver walked and scored on Bobby Lopez’s long double to left that hit the base of the wall as the left fielder went for the ball. After a bunt and a throwing error brought home Lopez, Nolen had a bunt single and moved to second on another bad throw to first from pitcher Will Boozer. D.J. Minniear’s sacrifice fly to center made it 4-3 and another bunt and throwing error gave the Tigers a four-run inning and a 5-3 lead. They added a couple of unearned runs as they just kept bunting and putting the pressure on Nacogdoches.
“That’s what this team does,’’ Autrey said. “They’re scrappy and unrelenting .’’
Freshman Corbin Hall wrapped it up, tossing the final 1 1/3 innings. He gave up a double and struck out two, including Watson, who fouled off several pitches before going down looking at a pretty curveball that dropped into the strike zone.
“I knew my teammates had my back,’’ Nolen said. “It felt great when we got the lead. It’s a whole different world when you down 3-0 and then leading. We came back as a team. I just got the job done. That’s all that counts.’’
The Tigers (15-4) have now won seven of their last eight games and are 2-0 in District 16-4A play