Doyle first baseman Tyson Stewart is only a sophomore, but he’s learned enough to keep his approach at the plate fairly scaled back since joining the Tigers’ varsity squad as an eighth-grader.
“My eighth- and ninth-grade years, I pushed myself too much and thought about it,” Stewart said. “When I get up to the plate now, I just relax and just don’t miss the fastball -- don’t miss the fastball.”
It’s an approach that’s served the Tigers well this season and provided opposing teams with more than a few headaches.
Stewart, who leads the Tigers with eight home runs, while batting .385 with nine doubles and 53 RBIs, seemingly hasn’t cooled off this season, something that helped Doyle earn the No. 2 seed in the Class 2A playoffs.
“He works so hard, he stays so consistent,” Doyle coach Tim Beatty, whose team hosts. No. 7 Avoyelles Public Charter in the opening game of a three-game quarterfinal series at 6 p.m. Thursday, said of Stewart. “He’s not always going to go 3-for-3 or 3-for-4, but he’s going to get a big hit some time in a ball game. He finds a way to get that big hit, and I think that’s just because of his work ethic. He’s one of the guys that’s hitting all the time on his own. He’s focused. He likes to hit on his own, and I think the mental aspect and the mental side of hitting, I think that’s what’s get him being so consistent, because he just works so hard.”
The start date of the series was moved up a day with rainy weather expected to arrive Saturday. Friday's second game will be at 4 p.m., with a third game at 7 p.m., if necessary.
Heading into the season, Beatty figured it would take his team, which features many Doyle basketball players, to work itself into baseball shape.
“Just catching up with the speed of the game, I thought it was going to take them about three weeks, but they turned it on in just a few games,” Beatty said. “It only took them two or three games to get them really caught up and in baseball mode.”
Doyle started the season 5-6, including a three-game losing streak to Episcopal, Lutcher and University High – their longest of the season. The Tigers lost just four games the rest of the regular season.
That’s where Stewart said his preparation was key. After putting together a solid season as an eighth-grader, he admittedly had a bit of a drop-off as a freshman. In an effort to remedy that, he began hitting earlier in the offseason.
“When we were playing basketball, I still swung almost every day, so for this season I would make sure I’d be prepared,” Stewart said.
Stewart also said working on the tee and getting advice from Tigers’ assistant coach Darrell Frasier have helped him refine his approach at the plate.
“I try to put two balls out of the strike zone, and I try to just stay through the zone as long as I can and not try to cast out, because the longer you stay through the zone is better,” Stewart said of his tee work.
Stewart said Frasier has helped when it comes to his mental approach at the plate.
“Usually when I get (up) with two outs, and I need to do something, I make sure,” Stewart said. “I don’t think failure is an option.”
Beatty said it’s an approach Stewart and some of his teammates have taken to heart this season.
“He’s one of the better hitters that I’ve had, that I’ve been able to coach in my career,” Beatty said of Stewart. “He sees the baseball well, and he does not like to fail. It bothers him – him and (Braden) Keen, especially. They expect to get a hit every plate appearance, and it bothers them bad if they don’t if they don’t get a base hit.”
Having players like Mason Davis (.404 average, 40 runs), Cade Watts (.343 23 runs) and Keen (.465, 13 doubles, seven triples, 37 RBIs) ahead of him in the lineup doesn’t hurt, either.
“I have so much confidence in them,” Stewart said. “They’re the ones that get on base for me. They start the spark.”
Nowhere was it more evident how things have come together for Stewart this season than in the third game of the Tigers’ series with St. Thomas Aquinas, which was tied at 1-1. With the Tigers trailing 6-2 heading into the top of the seventh, Davis got a two-out single, Watts walked and Keen singled to load the bases.
The Falcons then lifted starter Parker Stewart in favor of Blair Rodrigue to face Stewart, who launched a grand slam that tied the game.
The Tigers picked up a run in the eighth to score a 7-6 win, capturing the District 10-2A title.
“I kind of see where they were coming from, but I just felt like they should have kept that righty (Parker Stewart) in, in the St. Thomas game, because he had my number,” Tyson Stewart said of the Falcons making the pitching change. “He was hard to hit. He had a good two-seam and everything. I was 0-for-3, they were probably like …’he’s going to try to try to do too much’, and I just don’t try to do too much -- just do what your team (needs) you to do. Luckily, I hit one out.”
Stewart also hit a grand slam in Doyle's 13-1 win over Amite in the opening round of the playoffs. He said the team’s resiliency this season, especially after Rosepine’s 5-2 win over the Tigers in the first game of last weekend’s regional series, has been just as big as any of those home runs.
“We just had a lot of heart-to-heart (talks), saying that if we lose one more, we’re done,” Stewart said. “We were like, ‘we worked way too hard this season to go out in the second round.’ We just told ourselves that we will not lose (Saturday). It took 10 innings for the first game, but we did not quit. I’m super happy that we didn’t. It took a lot.”
Doyle bounced back to take the series, winning 2-1 in eight innings in the first game Saturday and 7-4 in the finale, momentum Stewart is hopeful Doyle can carry over into this weekend’s series.
“Since the first day … every practice, put 110 percent in,” Stewart said. “We’ve been locked in since the first game. Yeah, we have breakdowns, but how we bounce back is a lot better this year.”