Cisco College living up to Texas-sized standards
When the Cisco College baseball team rolled back into the small Texas town east of Abilene, it met a police car and a fire engine.
“I thought someone had had a wreck,” coach David White said.
Nope — the Wranglers had an escort into town after winning their first Southwestern District championship to qualify for the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
“We passed our little bank and four people with their kids were waving and screaming and our kids were going crazy, throwing candy and waving. We figured, ‘There’s our parade!’ When we got to the top of the hill by the school there were 100 or so people there. It was awesome.”
Keep in mind, about 3,000 people live in Cisco in the heart of football country, so for the Wranglers, this was a big deal.
Then they saw the sign.
“You pull up and you know you see the signs that say ‘Congratulations,’ ‘Great job,’ or ‘Great game’? Well, one of the ladies in our dean of students office puts up this royal blue and black sign, and I can’t say it, but ...”
“Our guys go crazy,” White said. “That’s how we live down here. That’s Cisco.”
White knows Cisco. He started the baseball program from scratch eight years ago with one of his assistants, Shawn Hughes.
He knows it’s hard to recruit baseball players to a small town in a football-crazed state.
“We’ve got a Sonic and a Dairy Queen,” he said. “Kids from Houston want to see more. You get the right kind of kid that fits in and will fight and fit us and it all works out.”
His younger brother is a high school football coach.
“I have to hear every year how they’re going to the state tournament,” White said. “It’s awesome, great community support for us here, but this is Texas.”
So, did he one-up his little brother that yeah, going to state football is great, but I’m headed to the World Series?
“I know better,” he said. “You’d get beat up. You don’t make fun of football in Texas. It’s fun to go to games. We want the community to be as proud of us as them.”
And they’re on their way to doing that, all 19 of the Wranglers and their coaching staff of three.
“We won the tournament and I was sitting in the dugout feeling pretty good about it,” White said. “I grabbed my phone to see if my dad had called; he was up in the stands. I had 87 text messages within five minutes. I had to throw my phone into the corner.”
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Wranglers (48-13).
“We’ll start with 28, 30,” White said. “We had two flunk out and three quit, and we redshirted a couple. They would be playing now, but we didn’t want to waste a year for three or four games. The three that quit and two that flunked out, that was all our depth.”
A couple of players just stopped going to class, he said, so they were dismissed.
“We had a game the next day and they weren’t there and we addressed it,” White said. “I said, ‘What do we do now?’ Our little shortstop (Eric Tate) stands up and says, ‘We go win.’ That was it. We kept winning. A couple of kids quit, our all-conference big left-hander. ‘Tate, what do we do now?’ ‘We go win.’ “
Tate, a sophomore middle infielder, kept the Wranglers together during that time, doing whatever was best for the team, even if it meant changing positions.
“When we lost those kids we had to move people around. (Jake) Armstrong, our best hitter, he’s played shortstop his whole life but we had him in the outfield early and we lost our second baseman.
“Tate was a better second baseman and he said, ‘I’ve got it.’ No ego, just I’ve got it. He went to second and we put Armstrong at short. No egos, no animosity, we just kept winning.”
Armstrong is hitting .446 with 50 RBI. Outfielder Rustin Thomas is hitting .379 with 42 RBI.
Corey Taylor leads the pitching staff with an 11-1 record with a 1.38 ERA. He’s struck out 48 and walked 17.
“They all play,” White said, laughing. “That’s the thing people don’t understand. We’ve got all these kids at the beginning of the season and I’ll say to my coaches, ‘We’ll have 17 guys finish.’ Usually that’s the norm around here, but really, I was just kidding.”
Kidding or not, the 19 Wranglers aren’t about to back down because they’re short on numbers.
“Howard’s dugout was completely full,” White said of the district title game. “Their coach (Britt Smith) says to me, ‘Where are your guys?’
“I said, ‘This is it, baby, get ready, because here we come.’ He’s a friend of mine, and people sometimes take it as a joke, think we’re not serious about what we do.
“They’re sadly mistaken. Our little guys are going to play hard and fight. As long as we don’t run out of juice, we’re gonna make a run at it and make our region proud.”
And when they get to Grand Junction and see more than twice the population of their town in the stands, they’ll ask Tate: What now?
“We’re going to ride it until the end of it,” White said. “Twenty-thousand in the stands, ‘What do we do, Tate?’ ‘We win.’ ‘’