The path back to the state tournament for the third straight year might be a tougher one for the 2013 Tigers with the addition of Bremen and Bowdon into the remaining teams from last year’s Region 5-AA, with only Callaway leaving upon moving to up to Class AAA.
“Lose one good one and pick up two really good ones. We’re excited. Not only does it make our region better, but we’re excited to get those two local rivalries back. Since we moved to AA, that we’ve missed. Back in the day when we were 6-A, we had Mt. Zion, Bremen and Bowdon. Not only were we competitive with each other, but we were able to pay the bills,” Temple coach Larry Weaver said. “We’re excited for the competition.”
If Temple is going to continue to stay in the top four and make its return to the tournament, it will rely heavily on a lot of experience and team chemistry. With seven seniors on the squad and another handful of juniors, Weaver’s squad has not only played a lot of baseball, but they’ve played a lot of it together.
“This group’s been playing together since about the seventh grade. It’s exciting to watch them play together and interact together. It’s a good group. Not only do they get along, they’re not bad. They’re pretty talented,” Weaver said. “They mean a lot. Kids like Tyler Summerville, Jeremiah Davis, when they go, we go. Both of them have come out with the proper mindset. We’ve teased them, but I don’t know if it’s clicked yet. This is it. This is the last year they’ll ever put that Tiger on their head and that ‘T’ on their chest and they’ve come out focused and are really leading this bunch.”
The group has even come to be more than just teammates on the field.
“It’s the last year. We’re going to have a lot of fun,” Summerville said. “We’ve been playing together, most of these guys, since we were 10 or so. Going to the playoffs back-to-back years has been a lot of fun seeing us grow up as a team ... family is the word that comes to mind.”
The family got a quick start to games that really matter. The Tigers opened up the season with a region doubleheader — both wins — at Kendrick, making the offseason matter that much more. Weaver said it isn’t ideal to open the season with meaningful games, but the setup did make some things, like keeping up with pitcher’s pitch counts, easier.
Those seniors know what’s at stake, as they are already off to a 2-1 start in region play.
“This group, that was one of the first things we talked about. The focus is not only making the state tournament this year, but we want to get to the upper-echelon of our region and possibly host a playoff game and win a playoff series. This group, they’ve laid the foundation. They know what it takes to be successful, they know what it’s like to be successful and now they want to really see the fruits of their labor,” Weaver said.
While there aren’t too many new names, D.J. Ellison will step in to get the majority of the time at first base. He will split time there with senior Taylor Peebles, who will be in right field when not at first. The most surprising addition is one of the seven seniors who is playing his first year on the diamond.
“Most of the names are the same. We do have a new senior, Kordell Parson. He’s a football player and plays left field for us. He came up to me in the winter and said, ‘Coach I’m going to play baseball for you.’ I just smiled at him because I had never seen the kid outside of football and basketball before. I didn’t know he was a ball player. He’s come out and I think he’s going to be a bright spot for us,” Weaver said.
While the team has some lofty goals — return to the playoffs for a third season, host a series and win a series — there are some that are a little more specific with a little revenge on their mind. Davis said he wouldn’t mind getting another shot at the team that knocked the Tigers out last year.
“We started off strong playing Kendrick, so we have two good wins on us,” Davis said. “We’re ready to take on some new [teams in the region] and see what we can do, because it’s different than what we’re used to. Hopefully, we get a chance at Buford to get some redemption from last year.”