Troup head baseball coach Tell Ross believes there are moments in a game when someone has to make a play or the pitcher has to make a pitch to get the team off the field.
In Game 3 of their Class 3A area playoff series against Hughes Springs, Troup had just allowed its opponent to pull within a run, 7-6, on a passed ball. The same play moved the potential tying run to third base.
Sophomore Weslee Ross peered in at Hughes Springs’ Bo McEntire, who already had an RBI single in the game. The count was 3-1 with the tying run 90 feet away. Ross induced a pop fly that was graciously caught by Troup third baseman Justin Nelson to end the threat.
The Troup Tigers, who began the season having not won a playoff series since 2008, were now going to the regional quarterfinals - their furthest advancement in the postseason in 11 years.
“Those are the moments that determine whether you are a good baseball team or a great baseball team,” Coach Ross said of Weslee Ross getting the pop out to defeat Hughes Springs. “The last three weeks we’ve done a really good job of making a play to get us off the field or a pitch to get us off the field.”
Troup (18-7-2) advances to face Beckville (23-6) in a 3A Region II quarterfinal series. Game 1 is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at The Brook Hill School in Bullard. Game 2 is at 1 p.m. Saturday at Carthage High School. If a third game is needed, it will begin after the conclusion of Game 2.
The Tigers enter this series as underdogs, facing a Beckville Bearcats squad which finished as the Class 2A state runner-up a year ago.
Ross said Troup is accustomed to being underestimated.
“After losing Friday night (to Hughes Springs), no one really gave us a chance,” Ross said of knocking off the 2013 state finalist. “When we showed up Saturday, I saw the urgency of the kids and they wanted to have that moment, and have that success for themselves and their teammates.”
The Tigers would have to sweep a doubleheader to complete the comeback. Senior Josh Parker did his part by pitching a complete-game shutout in Game 2. The offense was provided by Colton Whitesell, Weslee Ross, Jones Ard, Nelson and Wyatt Wood - all of whom had RBIs in the 6-0 win.
In game 2, Troup built a 7-0 lead entering the bottom of the third inning with Weslee Ross eventually nailing down the save in the seventh for starter Ard and reliever Conner Netherland, after Hughes Spring had pulled to within a run.
Tell Ross understands what is at stake for Troup now against Beckville. He was a senior on the 2006 Troup team that reached the regional quarterfinals, but was stopped by Hemphill in two games. He is now in his fifth year as head coach of the Tigers and seventh overall coaching in Troup.
Ross said the offensive punch for Troup is led by infielders Ard and Nelson. In the three games against Hughes Springs, Ard and Nelson combined for nine hits, three RBIs and five runs scored.
“Jones Ard has really paced us offensively; the same is true for (Nelson),” Coach Ross said. “They’ve come up with a lot of big hits for us and really been consistent all year.”
Coach Ross believes defense is vital to success and the Tigers have leaned on junior second baseman Rowdy Howell for that consistency in the field.
“We preach defense at Troup,” Coach Ross said. “He has really set the tone for us defensively. He’s made a lot of really good plays for us to get off the field.”
The Tigers stand on the precipice of accomplishing something never done before in school history. Ross acknowledges getting past Beckville will not be easy, but believes his players are more than up for the challenge.
“This is a great group of kids and they know what is at stake,” Ross said. “They want to do something that has never been done.”
Notes: Beckville reached the third round by sweeping Sabine in bi-district (10-0, 15-5) and edging Winnsboro 5-3 in a one-game area playoff … Troup defeated White Oak (3-2, 12-11) and Hughes Springs (4-7, 6-0, 7-6) … The winner of this series faces the winner of Gunter-Farmersville in the regional semifinals.