Tigers say goodbye to small ball
Charles Prince, Sports Editor
Some things about this high school baseball season are just business as usual for the Hartselle Tigers. For example, the Tigers are ranked in the state's Top 10 and they are unbeaten in area play.
But, some things are quite different this season compared to last year for the Tigers.
The offense is changing. It's more explosive in 2005 over the Hartselle offense of last season.
Last season the Tigers' offense was known for playing what the coaches and players like to call "small ball."
Small ball consists of manufacturing runs. A player walks and advances by stealing second base. He moves to third on a ground ball to the right side of the infield. Finally, he scores on a fly ball to the outfield. That's small ball, and the Tigers played it well enough to post a 35-18 record and reach the state semi-finals in 2004.
Thanks to 43 stolen bases by Justin Youngblood and 41 more by Ja'Cote Ward, the Tigers had plenty of speed to make the small ball game work well.
This year, there's plenty of speed on the roster to play the style effectively as Hartselle is averaging over two steals a game so far.
However, in addition to team speed, this year's Tigers appear to have much more power than their counterparts of 2004.
For example, in 2004 the Tigers finished the regular season with only six home runs in 46 games.
After the first 17 games of this year, the Tigers have already homered six times.
Justin Hargett leads the way with three, while Keith McCaghren, Justin Parker and Chris Wiley have one each.
But homers aren't the whole story. The Tigers have more doubles this season than stolen bases. Yes, there's power-a-plenty in this Tiger lineup.
Ten different Tigers have at least two doubles this season. Some of those just missed making it out of the ball park.
If you attended Hartselle's doubleheader at Cullman on March 12, you saw the Tigers hit more than a dozen balls to the warning track or beyond.
Chris Wiley should actually have two home runs this year. His double to left field with the bases loaded against Bob Jones was held in the park only because the wind was gusting directly over the left field fence toward home plate.
In the second game that day, McCaghren had a homer and Hargett added two more.
In addition, Joe McClanahan and Wiley both had doubles, which fell just short of the outfield fence.
There's still half the regular season for the Tigers to play, but one thing is for sure-the Tigers have added power to their small ball offense.
Come May, if the Tigers win a seventh state title, it may very well be because they've said goodbye to small ball.