Corsicana's Tigers made history with their run to Round Rock this spring, becoming the first team from Corsicana to reach the state baseball tournament since the 1958 Tigers.
But don't think the fun is over just yet.
Unlike most high school baseball teams that have a magical run to state, the Tigers will be bringing back a ton of talent to build on for the 2020 season.
They lost some talented and experienced seniors who made the march to the state tournament possible, but the 2019 Tigers had a unique mix of young and old players who made major contributions to their memorable season.
Some of those young players didn't just play, but they played a huge part in the Tigers' success, and Heath Autrey will be bring back a lot of talent and young players with experience.
The Tigers' biggest run producer was sophomore Hunter Autrey, who led the team in RBIs, driving in 28 runs for the season, and bringing home eight runs with key hit in the playoffs.
Autrey is just one of a long list of Tigers who will be back.
Autrey had a monster season at the plate, where he hit .364 for the season and batted .393 in the postseason. He had a .477 on-base-percentage for the season and .533 in the playoffs.
He will start at first base next year and give the Tigers a big bat and a good glove for the next two season.
Autrey is part of a sophomore class that will no doubt leave its own mark on the program that way the 2019 senior class left its legacy at Price Field.
Not only does Autrey return, but sophomore right-hander Kolby Kinkade will be back to take the spot as the ace of the staff. Kinkade had a memorable season, going 6-2 with a 2.43 ERA, and he stepped up in the postseason to become one of the biggest reasons the Tigers reached Round Rock.
Kinkade went 2-1 with a save in the playoffs with a 2.91 ERA, and made a huge improvement down the stretch in his ability to strike out hitters.
He had a career-high 10 strikeouts in a six-inning win over North Forney in the opening round of the playoffs with a strong performance in Game 2 in the bi-district round to nail down the sweep, and then he just kept shutting down opponents. His only loss was to Frisco Lone Star on a day when nothing went right for the Tigers.
But he came back strong. No one who saw the state semifinal game against Colleyville Heritage, the No. 6 team in the nation that was led by Bobby Witt Jr., the top high school player in the country, will forget Kinkade's relief performance when he came in the game with two on and one out in a 2-1 game. After giving up a weak flare that loaded the bases, Kinkade faced a bases-loaded situation, but he slammed the door on Heritage, striking out the top of the order, and ended the inning striking out Witt Jr., who went down swinging as the crowd at Dell Diamond erupted. Witt Jr. had been the No. 2 pick in the MLB draft three days earlier and later signed with Kansas City, which gave him a $7.8 million signing bonus.
Kinkade struck out 24 in 24 innings in the postseason, but none more memorable than Witt Jr.
“Kolby pitched great for us in the playoffs,” said Tiger coach Heath Autrey. “We need to find some pitching next year to go with him.
Miguel “Mikie” Leuvano is one of the best high school infielders in Texas, and he's ranked as the No. 9 prospect in the state in his graduating class of 2022. But the freshman infielder can also pitch and was invaluable in the playoffs.
Leuveno came on to give the Tigers a fourth arm, which they sorely needed because of all the best-of-three series they played. Luevano came through with a brilliant run on the mound, where he went 2-0 with a save and posted a 0.87 ERA in the playoffs. He can help on the mound next year, and if coach Autrey can find two more solid arms to build his pitching staff around the Tigers should be stingy with runs again next season.
It would be impossible to find a better second baseman than Luevano, who also came through with his bat. He hit .318 for the year and .300 in the postseason, and he came through with some of the biggest clutch hits in the playoffs, including a three-run triple that ignited the Tigers' eight-run sixth inning in their incredible 9-5 comeback against Lindale in a winner-take-all showdown in the Area round of the playoffs, and he had two huge clutch hits in Game 3 against Joshua in the Region Quarterfinals, and scored the winning run. Luevano drove in eight runs and scored seven in the Tigers' 11 playoff games.
He led the Tigers in scoring (30 runs) and stole a team-high 18 bases this season, and came through when it counted in the playoffs.
“Hunter and Mikie came through with some big hits for us in the playoffs,” Heath Autrey said. “Our young players gained a lot of experience in the playoffs.
Shortstop Lane Fuentes, who played brilliant defense all season, hit better (.333) in the playoffs and had a .500 on-base-percentage in the postseason, which as a big reason Autrey moved him up in the lineup. Fuentes, a junior, started as a sophomore and will be a big part of what Autrey believes will be another tight-gloved infield.
Hunter Autrey will be at first, Luevano and Fuentes are back in the middle and when Kinkade isn't pitching he'll be at third.
“We should be strong defensively in the infield next year,” said Autrey, whose team will be especially strong up the middle because catcher Caydon Rash, another sophomore, is coming off a big season behind the plate where he got better and better. “Our infield should be good. We just need to find two corner outfielders and find some more pitching.
The outfield in 2020 will be anchored by Cade Johnson, a junior who emerged this season in the field, at the plate and on the bases. Johnson, who made a number of fine running catches this year, will be the Tigers' center fielder next season, and he'll be trouble for opponents everywhere.
Johnson came through with two huge walkoff hits to win games in the regular season and had the only RBI single in the Tigers' 2-1 loss to Heritage at state. He hit .372 (16-for-43) for the season with a .517 on-base-percentage, and was better in the playoffs, where he hit .385. He stole 15 bases this year, including four in the postseason, and will be in the middle of everything the Tigers do next year.
Autrey knows he needs to fill some big holes, but he also knows what a long playoff run can do for young player, who basically played two seasons this year.
Hunter Autrey and Luevano will both play on Select Teams this summer, facing light-out competition as they grow. Hunter will actually be traveling all over the country with his Select Team, playing on college campuses in several states.
It's a long way until the 2020 season begins for the Tigers, but this team gives a whole new meaning to the phrase: “Wait till next year.”