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Saturday Sports Buffet: Breaking through – 2006 Eagles set high bar for program

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, May 27, 2017
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History Makers 1

HISTORY MAKERS – The Decatur Eagles 2006 team were the lone region finalists for the program until this year. Justin Unger raises his arms in celebration with Thomas Staley, Eric Metts and Chad Harrison. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

In May 2006, the Decatur Eagles returned to the region quarterfinals for second time in three years to face the team that had ended their season the year before, Iowa Park.

After splitting the first two games, Decatur found itself in a 2-2 tie going into the seventh inning. Thomas Staley’s RBI-single jumpstarted a four-run frame that propelled the Eagles to the 6-3 win and the program’s first trip past the third round.

“We had our ups and downs but we had a good mesh of people,” recalled Staley, a senior centerfielder on the 2006 squad. “After we got through Iowa Park, we felt great and were ready to go.”

The Eagles made it two more rounds before the ride came to an end just short of the state tournament after a 29-8 campaign. And before Wednesday, the squad was the only Decatur team since the program restarted in 1989 to reach the region finals.

“It’s a blast to think about. Time goes by so fast,” said Brent Jones, a senior pitcher on the team.

“Most of us had been playing together all through high school. We’d developed a dependence on each other and a mutual trust that we were all going to put the work in to be successful.”

Over the previous seven years, Decatur had established itself as a postseason regular. In 2005, the Eagles won the program’s third district title and reached the third round for the third time before losing to Iowa Park.

“Iowa Park was a big nemesis. We also couldn’t get over that third-round hump,” said then Decatur coach Glen Harrison.

The 2006 season started with the loss of one of the team’s pitchers to an injury, according to Harrison.

“It was a team that slowly progressed throughout the year,” he said. “I don’t think it was our best team. But it had great chemistry and played well at the end of the year.”

The Eagle won their second straight district crown and had a bye through bi-district. Decatur then swept Sanger to create a rematch with Iowa Park in Graham.

The team’s ace Brad Oates shut down Iowa Park in a 13-1 game one victory. After dropping a 14-10 marathon in game two, Decatur bounced back to win the series.

“No one had made it that far,” Oates said. “When we broke through, we had a lot of confidence that we could go farther.”

That confidence played a big role in the next round with a home-and-home series with Snyder.

Playing at home, Decatur trailed 2-0 going into the bottom of seventh in game one. Sophomore Colton Cangley belted a two-run homer to tie the game and four batters later Oates’ single gave the Eagles a walk-off 3-2 win.

Three days later, the Eagles went out west to Snyder for the conclusion of the series. On blistering hot afternoon, Decatur handed the ball to Jones. He responded by holding Snyder to three runs on four hits in six and one-third innings of a 5-3 victory.

“It was the hottest day of the year,” Jones recalled. “I went out there and threw the best game of my high school career.”

Decatur met Abilene Wylie for a chance to go to Austin. Behind Oates’ gem in game one, Decatur took the opener 6-4.

One victory away from a trip to state, Decatur couldn’t score it in game two, falling 18-9.

The Eagles jumped in front 3-0 in the third game and carried the lead into the fifth inning. Wylie then scored four runs in the fifth to take the lead and hold on for the 5-3 victory.

“Colton [Cangley] pitched well and we were up in the fifth inning,” Harrison said. “If we could have gotten two more outs, I was going to bring Brad in. I tell people we were five outs away from going to Austin.”

The ending to the season doesn’t sour the memories from the magical run, especially for Thomas Staley, who shared the field with his younger brother Joe. The two briefly played together at Stephen F. Austin. Joe Staley eventually was drafted by the San Francisco Giants and played several minor league seasons.

“It was very special. You have teammates that you’re close to but to have your brother out there makes it even more enjoyable,” Thomas Staley said.

Jones also remembers the time fondly with his father Chris on the bench.

Oates and Harrison saw this year’s team in action in an alumni game at the start of the year and are not surprised by its success.

“You could tell they were going to be a good team,” Oates said.

Harrison added: “I’m glad for them. I hope they can get some luck and get to Austin.”

Impressive Showing

IMPRESSIVE SHOWING – Lindsey Thorpe won one of three medals for Wise County at the state track meet. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

SIDEDISHES

  • The baseball playoffs have only strengthened my position on the new 110-pitch limit put in place by the University Interscholastic League and ordered by the National High School Federation. The rule is in place in interest of player safety, which I understand the sentiment. But my thoughts are it’s a rule to protect the small percentage of players that will play after high school. Most pitchers will not pick up a ball after high school and are being cheated out of opportunities in a very limited window. A vast majority of coaches are not going to butcher pitchers and make them throw too many pitches. I’m not totally against limits. I wouldn’t mind an innings limit of 10 per series or week over the strict 110-pitch limit. The current rule pretends that all pitches are the same, which they are not. The stress on the arm depends on the situation with the number of pitches in a particular inning.
  • While ordering rule changes, I’m for pushing the baseball regular season back to late March with it ending in late May. Let’s start the playoffs in June and play an area and region double-elimination tournament over the first two weekends and then series for the region semifinal and region final.
  • Impressive work two weekends ago by local track athletes with the Fantastic Four bringing home three medals. The three medalists – Caden McDonald, Lindsey Thorpe and Kayson Roof – were all multi-sport athletes going to compete in college.
  • It’s been a roller coaster ride already for the Texas Rangers. After the slow start came the 10-game winning streak. This week came the sweep in Boston. I still don’t have a feeling for how this will end. June will say a lot. If they can stay within seven games of Houston through June with Tyson Ross and Cole Hamels returning, there’s a shot.

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