Dirtbags, Part 2?

After successful 2012, Tigers want to retain ‘dirty’ team attitude

Senior Ethan Brinkley has been tabbed as a Class 3A top 30 player to watch this season. 
Reporter/Bill Martin Senior Ethan Brinkley has been tabbed as a Class 3A top 30 player to watch this season. Reporter/Bill Martin According to baseball purists, being a “Dirtbag”—contrary to its popular negative definition—is a good thing.

In his first season as head coach, Clay Cox implemented this “all-out, team-first” attitude during 2012 and the results were overwhelming.

The Tigers posted 20 wins for just the fourth time in school history and defeated Sealy in bi-district, the first three-game series win since 1999.

“To us being a Dirtbag is a way of life,” Cox said. “Going all out on every pitch and leaving nothing on the field. For us it’s the only way to play the game.”

Remaining true to the mantra, Cox’s squad definitely had to hustle to get into the post season.

After a mid-season slump, where they lost four straight games smack-dab in the middle of district play, the Tigers rallied captured two of their last three league games and reeled off five of six before being booted out in regional by No. 2 Bridge City.

Most of the people responsible for the success have graduated (eight seniors) and Cox is definitely in rebuilding mode.

“We have a lot of youth this year and are looking for some guys to step in and fill some big shoes,” said Cox. “The loss of All-State players Tate Pounders and John Stewart along with Cody Skubal, Ty Kirk and Stephen Ehler left some big gaps in the lineup.”

The opening day roster will see four sophomores and a freshman take the field.

The Tigers lost their most effective pitcher in Tate Pounders (6-3, 4.21 ERA, two no-hitters) and lost 114 runs batted in.

Not only that, but returning shortstop Clayton Gibbs is still nursing an elbow injury he suffered in football and cannot throw the ball, but can step in as designated hitter for the time being.

The junior Gibbs (.287, 24 RBI, 29 runs, 15 stolen bases) was also expected to be one of Rockdale’s front line pitchers.

“With Clayton out, the two and three spots currently are up for grabs with Pearce Loth and Hayden Offield,” Cox said.

Senior Ethan Brinkley will be the bell cow for the Tigers at the plate and in the field as the No. 1 pitcher while manning first base and center field when not on the hill.

Brinkley had a team-high .402 batting average, 30 runs and 28 runs batted in last season.

The left hander was 4-2 on the mound with a 2.70 earned run average.

“We will need to find guys who can hit behind him in the line up for him to be able to produce like he did his junior year,” Cox said.

The Tigers have a steady hand in junior catcher Austin Caffey (.219, 12 RBI, 10 SB), who begins his third year behind the plate.

Cox will be looking to seniors Garrett Korenek, Patric Trejo, Nick Pelzel and William Dean and sophomores Pearce Loth, Preston Ehler, Derek Whitsel, Dylan McCartney (recovering from ACL injury in football) and Hayden Offield and freshman Kacey Waxler for help in filling out the starting lineup.

“ We had a great group of seniors that got this thing headed in the right direction last year,” said Cox. “There will be a lot of weight on some younger guys to step up and play a key role for us as we look for a repeat trip to the playoffs.

“Four of these sophomores were with us as freshmen on varsity last year, and understand what it takes to get where we plan on being come May.”

Despite the youthful roster, Cox is certainly not taking it easy as far a scheduling: the f irst week schedule includes No. 16 Cameron, No. 8 Salado, No. 11 Bridge City, No. 1 Troy and Burnet (2012 bi- district qualifier).

As far as District 18-3A is concerned, Taylor, with veteran skipper Doug Kuhl, is always a favorite.

Keep an eye on College Station, where former Thorndale coach Scott Holder inaugurates the Cougars baseball program.

Caldwell and Madisonville were also playof f teams last season.

Bell Rivals Tournament

The sixth annual Bell Rivals Tournament gets underway Thursday with its unique format of being hosted by two schools, Rockdale and Cameron.

Ten teams will participate in the two-town tournament including Taylor, Burnet, Salado, Troy, Smithville, Giddings, Robinson and Bridge City, the team that knocked Rockdale out of the playoffs in 2012.

Robinson, currently ranked No. 16, is the defending champion, having captured four of the first five Classic titles.

Season opener

Committing two errors on the first two hits of the night and a steady stream of Cameron hits doomed the Tigers to an 18-0 loss to the Yoemen in the season opener at Tiger Ballpark.

Brinkley absorbed the loss in three innings of work as the Tigers commit ted 10 errors behind him. He allowed just one earned run.

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