Tigers host Mesquite
Tuesday, 15 May 2012 by Chuck Kelly
Belton baseball begins the Class 5A playoffs in a showdown with North Mesquite this evening at Tiger Field.
Head Coach Eddie Cornblum's Tigers(15-11, 9-5) head into the first round after closing out the regular District 12-5A season in an uncharacteristic finish. The team dropped two-in-a-row --- to first-place Bryan 13-1 and second-place A&M Consolidated 3-2 --- to change the final standings.
Belton wound up tied with Temple for third place in district BUT the Tigers earned the district's third seed in the playoffs by virtue of its sweep of the Wildcats (9-4 and 7-0) during the regular season.
Obviously, the outcome of the final two games were not what Cornblum or his Tigers expected but he shook it off and put the results behind them.
"I thought we had a great game against A&M," he later commented. "We didn't make any mistakes defensively and Hunter pitched well....Blayton, too....and I felt good about the kids behind them. We just didn't get timely hits with guys on base."
That was then and now a new season begins called "The Playoffs". Every team begins anew, zero-zero...win or go home.
The first target for the Tigers will be District 10-5A's second-place North Mesquite Stallions (17-14), that district's second seed in the post-season play.
Hometown fans will be packed into the stands at Tiger Field this evening in the three-game series only local appearance. The second game will be at Copeland Field in Mesquite Saturday at 1:00pm. A deciding game three, if necessary, will start 30 minutes following game two.
North Mesquite is a pretty athletic team, according to Cornblum.
"I haven't seen them but that's what my scouts tell me and a friend of mine says the same thing....athletic," the coach advised. "They run pretty well. I know they have at least six stolen bases as a team, so they're going to run on you a lot. They do a lot of little things, they're going to bunt and put pressure on you and try to do whatever they can to make our defense press a little....get in a hurry and make mistakes. They seem to be aggressive all the way around. They're a team that's not going to wait around, they're going to try to get after it....and see what kind of team their opponent has!"
The coach relates that North Mesquite's pitching reminds him of Temple.
"I don't know if they will be overpowering but they will 'spot' their pitches....the off-speed stuff is pretty. They will mix their throws up and try to keep the batter off-balance. You'll put it in play but their defense behind them isn't bad. They seem to be pretty solid on the defensive side....not many errors."
As for the Stallions' batting, they are going to put the ball in play and run! They may not have a lot of power but they do have players who will press and hurry you...make you get in a rush, according to Cornblum.
"Their big thing is going to be the small stuff," he observed. "Their first and third situations are going to be doing some things that will make you throw the ball around and maybe make mistakes. Hopefully, we'll be prepared for all of that."
As for the Tigers, the coach states that, obviously, the team has to produce timely hits. Too often, Belton gets runners in scoring position and just can't get the hits to bring them across home plate. He says that's got to change and anything can happen in the playoffs....That's what is so good about the playoffs: Teams are starting all over and everyone is zero-zero.
"I feel very confident on the mound and defensive-wise, we're pretty good, too," said Cornblum. "We just have to get timely hits!' '
The Tiger players are "pumped up" and yesterday's practice was good. They were excited and all of the team knows that it's been an up-and-down season....some really great moments. Now, it's the first round of the playoffs....a brand-new season.
Community support is behind the team....the players are "fired up"....the first pitch of the road to the top will be thrown tonight at 7:00 at Tiger Field . Belton versus North Mesquite.
"Let's just make a run and see what we can do," stated a smiling but serious Cornblum. "It's do-able!"