SULPHUR – Most of his players weren’t born the last time the Doyle played for a state baseball championship, and that’s not a problem for Tigers coach Tim Beatty.
The way he figures it, this team has already made some history and has a chance to add to it in Monday’s Class 2A state championship game at 6 p.m. against Kinder at McMurry Park.
“I know for us, it’s exciting,” Beatty said. “I know our guys have worked really hard. It’s something that we’ve talked about. A lot of these guys grew up playing for each other. It’s something that they’ve always dreamed of doing is playing for a state championship. They’re giving themselves a chance. That’s one thing that we have preached that, hey, this will be the first time that I know of that Doyle’s ever won a baseball championship. Before our game (against Welsh), we did remind them. Setting records is something cool. I told them this will be the first time ever, and we’re going to have that chance (Monday) for sure. It’s something special. I’m excited.”
The game, which was originally scheduled to be played Friday, was pushed back because of rainy weather.
It’s the first time Doyle (29-11) has advanced to the title game in baseball in Class 2A, and this team has established a program record for wins in a season. The previous high mark of 26 wins was set in 2015, the last time the Tigers made it to the semifinals before losing to Kinder 6-1.
“I told them (Wednesday) night in the meeting, I said I feel like we owe Kinder,” Beatty said. “That loss still hurts. I’m still having memories of them beating us, so I really want to get them back.”
Betty said the Tigers’ coaching staff made a special scouting trip during the regular season to watch Kinder last season and wanted to get them on the schedule this season but it didn’t work out. Kinder defeated the Tigers 3-0 last season.
“I know they’re one of the top teams in the state year in and year out,” Beatty said. “Their baseball tradition is really deep, and we want to see where match up year in and year out, because if you want to be the best, you’ve got to learn to beat the best. I think the two best teams in this year’s playoffs are meeting up … and that’s what makes it great.”
Guy McDonald coached Doyle to Class B final in 2001, where the Tigers finished as runner-up to Pine Prairie. He said he sees some similarities between that team and the Tigers’ current squad.
“Both teams were very gritty teams,” he said. “They refuse to lose is what you would say about them that are kind of similar. This team is very good defensively. I don’t think the team that we brought here the last time is as good as them on defense.
“We had some peaks and valleys in that season, and we played very good baseball leading up to that final game,” McDonald continued. “The same thing with these guys. They played very good baseball the last few games.”
Tigers catcher Cole Mack, who was born in 2001, said one thing that’s helped Doyle this season and could carry over into the championship game is that most of the players on the team have played together for a while.
“We’ve all played summer ball together before,” Mack said. “We started playing high school, and we all just have like a little clique together. It’s easier playing with all your friends. It limits arguments and allows everything to flow a little better.”
And having won a semifinal game – a 5-2 win over Welsh – in the McMurry Park environment, can’t hurt the Tigers, either.
“I think it was huge, because we played that semifinal game, and we got through it with a win,” shortstop Mason Davis, who was born in 2000, said. “We were all nervous. There were a lot of people there, but it’s really going to be the same game (Monday).”
Beatty said his message to the team heading into the semifinal game wasn’t complicated, and he’s keeping it that way as the final approaches.
“That’s going to be my main talk to them –‘Hey guys, it’s just another game. It’s game 41, and we deserve to be here,” Beatty said. “Play hard and just go out there and keep doing what we’re doing – pitch it, play defense and get some timely hits, get on base, you never know what might happen.”
Beatty, who graduated from Walker in 1993, will be coaching in his first state championship game. He said he’ll pick the brains of McDonald, who is now an assistant principal at Doyle, and assistant coach Darrell Frasier, in putting together the team’s pre-game routine, which was disrupted a bit when the game was pushed back three days because of rain.
Beatty said he asked McDonald to come out of coaching retirement to work with the team this season but McDonald declined. Frasier, meanwhile, had success in West Virginia coaching summer ball at the collegiate level in the Valley League taking teams to the finals.
“He’s been there in this big event, big environment,” Beatty said of Frasier. “He’s keeping me calm, for sure.”
The biggest thing for Beatty is keeping the team in its routine. He said the Tigers will leave Monday morning and follow the same travel schedule they did in getting to Sulphur for Wednesday’s semifinal game, but the team won’t be stopping at one Lake Charles eatery.
“I’m a little superstitious,” Beatty said. “Last time we were here, we went to Darrell’s. I don’t know if I’m going to go eat at Darrell’s Po-Boys just because we lost last time.”
This group of Tigers isn’t thinking about a loss, however.
“We’ve got such a good group of guys here, and we’re really looking to change history this year,” Davis said. “I’m just trying not to think about a loss right now. We’re just trying to stay locked in and keep playing hard until this last game.”
Said Mack: “The end goal is always to win the state title. “I guess we’ve always had our sights set on that and didn’t want to settle for anything less than that. I think I’ve thought more about coming back to Livingston without the state championship than I have (about) coming back with it. I don’t want to let Livingston or Livingston Parish down.”
Beatty is also mindful of what a state championship would do for the program on a statewide level.
“I think that winning (Monday) will propel us to that team where other teams are going to have to keep watch,” Beatty said. “I think that’s going to be a big boost if we can win for our program. Of course, we’ve always been in the playoffs and people know about us, but now, they’re going to have to worry about, ‘Man, we’ve gotta go play that Doyle team.’ That’s kind of the attitude I want to set for the rest of the state about when they play Doyle, and I think winning (Monday) would definitely put that into other teams throughout the state, for sure.”
“(It’s) uncharted waters. We’re going to play it by ear,” Beatty continued. “We’re going to keep notes. If it doesn’t work (Monday), we’re going try something different next time, because I see us coming back.”
In the meantime, McDonald had some advice for the current crop of Tigers.
“It’s hard to do when you’re in the moment, but just to savor all of this because it’s a really special thing to be here. It’s a really special thing to compete for that championship. I think we’re in good shape to get one. I hope so.”
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