The Tigers couldn’t get anything going against Brooks and lost 10-0 in five innings, ending their season. The two teams split two games Friday in their best-of-three series.
“We struggled in every aspect of the game today, and that hasn’t been us over the past month,” Cleburne County coach Vaughn Lee said. “This team has improved more than any team I’ve ever had.”
The real Tigers the ones who have made the playoffs 13 of the last 15 years, but never to the quarterfinals until this year were a different team than the one that took the field Saturday.
Brady Padgett was the only player to record a hit, and Clayton Smith and Alan Taylor were the only other players to reach base.
“We didn’t hit the ball well the whole time, but they have some good pitching,” Lee said. “But we’ve seen guys like that all year. It just wasn’t reflective of who we are.”
Things weren’t any better in the field as the Tigers committed six errors over four innings. The knockout blow came in the bottom of the fourth when Brooks (44-10) scored six runs on two hits.
“It doesn’t reflect who we are or who we’ve been,” Lee said. “That’s what I hate about today.”
The team Lee is familiar with is the one that went undefeated in Area 10 and swept Fairview and Oneonta in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Cleburne County’s strengths came at the plate, hitting “disciplined and aggressive,” Lee said. He added the Tigers shined on situational hits.
“We won the games that counted. I think we were more of a team trying to develop when games started counting,” Lee said. “We were really good at getting ready for those games, even last night with our backs against the wall in Game 2.”
But in Game 3, the game simply didn’t go to plan.
Cleburne County (22-14) loses nine players to graduation, including three pitchers. However, Lee said it’s become a custom for the program to build up players as underclassmen, so it’s not a huge role to take over once they mature into upperclassmen.
“We have some younger guys that have really came through and played well for us, and it’s kind of became a tradition,” he said. “We feel good about who’s coming in and feeling those spots.”
Sports Writer Brandon Miller: 256-235-3575. On Twitter @bmiller_star.