It’s tough for Doyle baseball coach Tim Beatty to point to just one aspect of his team that’s helped get the Tigers get to the Class 2A semifinals.
“It’s been a great team effort,” said Beatty, whose No. 2-seeded Tigers meet No. 3 Welsh at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at McMurry Park in Sulphur. “There’s been some games where our bats pulled it out for us, and in other games, it’s been our pitching that’s kept us in it. We’ve kind of had a good go-round of complementing each other offensively, defensively (and) on the mound ...”
But when it comes to the team’s offensive production, it’s all about setting the table.
Doyle's first baseman and cleanup hitter Tyson Stewart has reaped the benefits of the team's top three hitters in the lineup – Mason Davis, Cade Watts and Braden Keen – getting on base. Heading into last weekend’s quarterfinal series with Avoyelles Public Charter, Stewart was hitting .385, with nine doubles, eight home runs and 53 RBIs – numbers he credited, in part, to the jobs Davis, Watts and Keen were doing in front of him.
Davis said he’s happy to oblige.
“My main concern is, of course, getting on base and also trying to work the pitcher and see what kind of stuff that he’s got to help out the rest of my teammates,” said Davis, who was hitting .404 with 40 runs scored heading into the quarterfinals.
“Usually we’ll go through the first round of our lineup and maybe not hit that good because we’re all experimenting with what pitches he’s got and stuff, but once we get his pitches down and get them all timed up, we really start hitting him.”
Beatty said Davis is also the team’s spark plug on offense.
“Mason Davis … he’s been one of the tougher outs,” Beatty said. “He kind of gets us going. If Mason’s going and he’s getting on base, the rest of the guys kind of feed on him because he is such a hard out.”
That approach served the Tigers well throughout the season and in the first two rounds of the playoffs as they combined for 28 hits in defeating Amite 13-1 in the first round and taking a three-game series from Rosepine in the regional round.
“When I get up there, I’m looking to move Mason over to get him to second in scoring position,” said Watts, who was hitting .343 with 23 runs before last week’s games. “I’ve been a leadoff when I was younger, and I’m like a second leadoff. If Mason doesn’t get on, I try to get on base.”
Beatty said having Watts in the No. 2 spot in the lineup allows for some versatility when he steps in the batter’s box.
“Cade Watts does a lot of special things when Mason’s on the base,” Beatty said. “He can bunt. We can hit-and-run with him.”
Then there’s Keen, the team’s three-hole hitter, who was hitting .465 with 13 doubles, seven triples and 37 RBIs heading into last week’s series, who Beatty said presents a solid dilemma for opposing coaches.
“Keen comes up, and what’s so special about Keen is we’ve got Tyson behind him, so you’ve got to almost have to pick your poison – do we want to face Keen with runners on, or do we want to put Keen on and let Tyson clean it up?’ “…They find themselves pitching to him because they might not want to see Tyson come up,” Beatty said.
The hits dwindled for Doyle in its regional sweep of Avoyelles Public Charter, but Davis and Watts continued to get on base, with Davis scoring the Tigers’ first run in the first inning of a 3-2 win over the Vikings in the second game of the series. Davis got on via a walk and Watts was hit by a pitch in the inning.
Stewart also had a sacrifice fly that scored Watts in the third inning to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead, and Keen scored on a Stewart double in the fifth after getting hit by a pitch and stealing second.
Davis has an idea why the hits why were difficult for the Tigers to come by in the quarterfinal series.
“I think people are just mixing it up knowing that we hit the fastball real well,” Davis said. “They’re starting to mix it up with a lot more offspeed, but I think we’ll adjust really well, and I think we’re starting to get the hang of it.”
The other part of the equation is getting the same type of results from the lower part of the lineup – another aspect that has helped Doyle this season.
“I know our defense and pitching has been lights out through the first three rounds, and we’re hoping that our bats can wake it up a little bit," said Beatty, "and go back to our form of where we’re hitting, especially our top (of the lineup) guys are getting on for Tyson (Stewart), Cole Mack and some of our other big hitters, and the bottom half is getting on base for our top 1-2-3 guys.
“We’ve been having success getting that bottom half of the lineup on base at times. When we’re doing that, we’re tough to beat.”
It’s a formula Davis hopes leads to an extended stay in Sulphur for the Tigers.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Davis said of the trip. “I’ve never been to Sulphur yet in my (high school) years, so I think we’re really excited and we’re real confident in our team, and we really think that we can win it this year.
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