|Cumby enjoying baseball success after lean years|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
May 11, 2004 -- Three years ago, the future of Cumby baseball looked bleak. In fact, Cumby senior Chris Romans wasn't sure if the Trojans' baseball program had a future.
There were talks of discontinuing the sport in Romans' freshman year due to a lack of interest after the school didn't field a team the previous season because there weren't enough players.
The Trojans were able to scratch together enough players for a team when Romans was a ninth-grader. Then, coach Scott Mabe was hired the next year, and this season the Trojans are back in the playoffs after an absence spanning more than a decade.
"When I was a freshman, if we didn't have a freshman team that year, they were going to dump the baseball team all together," said Romans. "It was about to fold because they didn't have a team the year before that.
"We're lucky to still have a team, I guess. We barely made it my freshman year, then my sophomore year the program picked up when Coach Mabe came. It's been going uphill ever since."
The Trojans, who finished as runners-up in District 14-1A, will open the playoffs at 6 p.m. today when they take on Collinsville in Greenville. The winner advances to face Maud, which won its bi-district series.
Cumby has already been in a playoff-type atmosphere when they faced Celeste in the regular season finale with the winner securing a playoff berth and the loser's season ending. Playing an error-free game, the Trojans won, 4-2.
It's that defense and pitching, led by seniors Mika Robertson and Justin Taylor, that has carried the team this season, Mabe said.
"I'd like to think we're fundamentally sound. I think defense and pitching has been a big key for us this year," he explained. "Our pitchers have performed really well, and that needs to continue. We try to encourage them to throw strikes, put the ball in play and let the defense take care of it. So far, we've had a pretty good year doing it that way.
"We've had some errors, but they haven't been at the wrong time for the most part. When Celeste came down and beat us, we had four errors in that game. That's the most we've had in any game, and sure enough that beat us. Most of the games, we've been pretty fundamentally sound, defensively."
Taylor, who has played catcher, shortstop, pitcher and third base in the last two years since transferring from Sulphur Springs, said there has been another key component to this year's success.
"Confidence. We have so much more confidence this year than last year," he said. "This year, we have some senior leadership, and I'd say confidence is the main issue."
The Trojans have six seniors on the squad. Along with Robertson, Taylor and Romans are Brandon Brown, Todd Higginbotham and John Bendall.
Robertson' .467 average leads the team, while Taylor's batting .375 with a team-high two homeruns and eight RBIs, and Romans is hitting .357 with a team-high five doubles. On the mound, Robertson has a 8-1 record with a 1.88 ERA and Taylor is 3-1 with a 1.68 ERA.
Mabe has seen the players blossom. When he arrived, he was told Romans was "a good player who can't hit." This year, Romans bats in the clean-up spot, where he's one of four players on the team batting over .350. He has also taken over full-time at catcher, which allowed Taylor to move to shortstop.
"Coach Mabe's been teaching fundamentals. He's helped make my swing more fundamentally sound," Romans said. "He thinks if you're fundamentally sound, that your talent will take over after that. He believes in doing things right. One of the reasons we're in the playoffs is he teaches the right way to do stuff."
The Trojans (13-5) have been in every game this season. Of their five losses, four of them have been by one run and the other by two runs.
"I think last year we had the mindset hat if we were going to do it, this was the year." said Taylor. "We have six returning seniors and team chemistry is real good. We got off to a really great start, a lot of our younger players have really stepped up."