Corsicana’s Tigers start play Friday just one step from reaching the UIL Class 5A state tournament in Round Rock, and they arrived at this spot thanks to some big bats, clutch hitting, great defense and gutsy pitching from the entire staff.
These Tigers are a metaphor for coach Heath Autrey’s favorite saying.
Autrey always says: “Baseball isn’t about the little things because the little things in baseball are BIG things.”
His team not only does all the little things on and off the field, but his players are a walking metaphor, because they have arrived in the Region Championship series because every player has had a big part in their playoff run.
Every player in the lineup has come through with a clutch hit at one point in the Tigers’ run through the playoffs, and every pitcher on the staff has had to come in and contribute at some point over the nine game journey that has brought the Tigers to where they are today.
They open their best-of-three series for the 5A Region II Championship against Midlothian (23-10) on Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. with Game 2 to follow 30 minutes after the conclusion .
Game 3 (if needed) will be played at 1 p.m. Saturday.
All the games are at Dallas Baptist University, where the Tigers have spent most of their postseason.
They have already played eight games at DBU, sweeping the bi-district series against North Forney with a 4-2 and 11-2 victory. It took them three games to advance past Joshua in the Region Quarterfinals, and they needed three games to beat Frisco Lone Star last week in the Region II Semifinals.
The only time the Tigers played away from DBU was in the second round of the playoffs when they played a one-game, winner-take-all showdown against Lindale at Price Field, where the Tigers staged their most dramatic comeback in the playoffs.
Trailing 5-1 with six outs left in their season, the Tigers scored eight runs in the bottom of the sixth to beat the Eagles 9-5 and advance to the Region Quarterfinals.
The Tigers have come back twice in the last two weeks after losing tough games to win Game 3 and advance.
They were shut out by Joshua 6-0 in Game 2 at DBU in the Region Quarterfinals, but came back to win the series the next day with a 4-3 victory in Game 3.
They were even more impressive last week when they came back from the worst loss of the season, a 13-0 five-inning loss in Game 2 to Lone Star.
That kind of loss could have kept a team down, but the Tigers came right back and jumped out to a 3-0 lead in Game 3 and held on to knock off Lone Star 3-1 win to become the first Tigers team since 1958 to reach the Region Championship round of the playoffs.
Autrey used five pitchers in the three game series last week, and he might need every arm on the staff to get to Round Rock.
There are eight Class 5A teams left in Texas, and two of them are from District 14-5A, which was arguably the toughest district in the state. The Tigers went 8-4 and finished second in the district race behind Cleburne and Midlothian went 7-5 and was fourth team, right behind Joshua.
The Tigers and Panthers split two games in the district race. Midlothian won 3-1 at home, and two days later the Tigers won 9-2 at Price Field after scoring eight runs in the first two innings.
They have bounced back like that all year, and have that kind of no-quit attitude that has carried them this deep in the playoffs.
“They are very resilient,” Autrey said. “They have been like that all year. We lost 13-0 last week, and after losing the only time all year by the run-rule, they came right back and won.
“When we lost 13-0 they were fine on the bus ride home. Nobody was down and out. They stayed focused and we came out and played great defense and pitched well the next game.”
The Tigers have had a long list of heroes who have stepped up all year and had big moments in the playoffs.
Micah Burke, Devan Lindsey and Kolby Kinkade have led them on the mound all year and in the postseason, and freshman Miguel Luevano has stepped up on the mound and given the Tigers some big innings in the most crucial spots.
The team as a whole has hit better than any Tiger team since the Hunter Melton-led Tigers in 2011-12, and the bats have come through in the playoffs.
Burke entered Friday’s doubleheader against Midlothian hitting .516 in the postseason, ging 16-for-31 over the nine-game stretch with a .710 slugging percentage and a 1.269 OPS.
Hunter Autrey, a sophomore who leads the Tigers in RBIs for the season, also has been a big bat in the playoffs. Autrey entered the Region Championship hitting .435 (10-for-23) with a .606 on-base-percentage and a 1.084 OPS. He had walked 10 times in the playoffs and driven in eight huge runs over the nine-game stretch.
Devan Lindsey entered Friday’s game with a .419 batting average in the playoffs and a .742 slugging percentage and a 1.161 OPS.
In the first nine games of the playoffs Lindsey had 13 hits and six of those were extra base hits, including two doubles and two huge home runs. He missed a third homer last week in Game 3 against Lone Star when his shot to left field hit the top of the wall for an RBI double, missing a home run by inches. He drove in 10 runs over the first nine games and scored seven.
He was the Tigers’ top hitter against Midlothian in the regular season when he went 3-for-3 against Midlothian ace, Caden Hawkins, who beat the Tigers 3-1 and held them to just four hits while striking out 10, and Lindsey went 5-for-7 in the two games against Midlothian with a double and a homer in Corsicana’s 9-2 win at Price.
Luevano has not looked like a freshman all year and has looked even bigger in the playoffs. Not only has he pitched in crucial spots and come through, but he entered Friday’s doubleheader hitting .346 9 9-for-26) with a .500 on-base-percentage and a .962 OPS in the playoffs. He had driven in eight runs and scored eight runs in the nine games, including a clutch three-run triple to ignite the Tigers’ eight-run inning against Lindale, and two clutch RBI single in Game 3 against Joshua, driving in Burke in the fifth and seventh inning to left the Tigers to the 4-3 win.
It has been a memorable ride for the Tigers.