Tournaments | Story | 7/9/2019

Dallas Tigers fulfilling mission

Jack Nelson        
Photo: Jordan Lawlar (Perfect Game)

DUNWOODY, Ga. – Everything is bigger in Texas. Big steaks. Big-time football. Big skies. And big baseball talent. On Tuesday, the Dallas Tigers 2021 Hernandez improved to 5-0-1 as they defeated Team Elite American, 8-2, and took another step toward advancing to bracket play in the WWBA 16u National Championship.

To advance in a WWBA National Championship, you basically need to go undefeated. A loss is generally fatal. While a tie won’t kill your chances, it also means you are going to need to play lights out the rest of the way and get some help in terms of the run differential. After tying Canes National 15u on Saturday, this is the situation the Tigers find themselves.

“I told the boys yesterday that bracket play starts today,” said coach Tommy Hernandez. “We need to focus on executing like we have for the past 26 years in this program, and hopefully our pitchers can continue to throw strikes. That should give us a chance to advance.”

The boys certainly heeded their coach’s advice. Scoring started in the top of second when Texas commit Jack Arthur launched a two run home run over the left field fence. Seven Tigers had a hit, including Jordan Lawlar, Nathan Humphreys, Ryan Johnson and Tyler Riddle. It was a balanced offensive attack from top to bottom, as seven Tigers also contributed an RBI.

The Tigers used three pitchers to stifle the Team Elite bats. Zak Taylor threw the first 2 2/3 innings and allowed no earned runs while striking out two. Then Bryce Johnson came on to toss 3 1/3 innings of one run ball. Joshua Johnson closed it out in the seventh with a scoreless frame.

Established in 1993, the Dallas Tigers are a proud organization with a proven track record of success. They have won 15 national championships, over 150 alumni have played Division I college baseball, and 26 have been drafted. But one thing is missing from the trophy collection, and that is a WWBA National Championship.

“We lost in the finals back when we had Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber and Yovani Gallardo,” Hernandez said. “It would be a lot of fun to get that title. The competition is fantastic, but we’re just trying to get these kids developed to hopefully play at the next level.”

This 16u Tigers team already has six Division I commits including Jordan Lawlar (Vanderbilt), Tyler Collins (Oklahoma State), Jack Arthur (Texas), Jaxon Holder (Dallas Baptist), Bryce Johnson (Louisiana-Lafeyette) and Hunter Marshall (Oklahoma).

“Our number one goal is to get these kids to play college baseball,” Hernandez said. “And we win a lot of games in the process, but that’s not our top goal. We had 26 college commits in the 2019 class, so that’s very satisfying for us.”

On a field replete with top talent, Lawlar stands out. The 6-foot-1, 170-pound shortstop is ranked No. 21 overall in the high school class of 2021. The Irving, Texas, native is a dynamic athlete up the middle with good speed and serious juice in his bat. He was a 2017 14u Select Festival player, and has also participated in the Jr. National Showcase. He has been playing for the Dallas Tigers since the very beginning of his career.

“I started playing baseball when I was about five or six,” Lawlar said. “My parents have always been very into sports, so I played baseball, basketball, ran track and played a little bit of flag football. I was pushed to try everything, but basketball and baseball have stuck."

“I joined the Tigers at 9u, and I’ve been with them ever since,” he continued. “I’ve had only two main coaches here. They’ve taught me so much and made me into the player I am today. Without them, I don’t know if I’d be where I am today.”

The No. 3 ranked player in the great state of Texas had his pick of college scholarships. In the end, he chose coach Tim Corbin and the Vanderbilt Commodores. Lawlar looks forward to continuing the dominance down in Nashville.

“I got that first call after the PG 14u Select Festival,” Lawlar said. “After that, recruiting really started to pick up. Vanderbilt eventually offered, and just thinking about all the history they have there gets me excited. “

Another major x-factor for the Tigers is Tyler Collins. The Oklahoma State commit is ranked 16th in the state of Texas and 156th overall in the class of 2021. Like Lawlar, Collins has been with the Tigers for the bulk of his amateur baseball career.

“I started playing when I was three,” Collins said. “My dad got me into the game, and I was always playing up for my age. I joined this Tigers team when I was 14.”

Collins is a special athlete that showed off all his tools on Tuesday. He went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a steal. Defensively, the right fielder made a beautiful catch in foul territory in the bottom of the first inning. He is a complete player that will be a treat for coach Josh Holliday when he gets to Stillwater.

“I liked how involved the coaches are with the players,” said Collins of his pledge to the Cowboys. “They aren’t going around the country trying to recruit everyone. They target specific guys that they want to build around for four years.”

For Tommy Hernandez, watching guys like Lawlar and Collins flourish is what it’s all about. Hernandez founded the program in 1993 with the goal of taking the top talent in the Metroplex and exposing them to national competition. And in that time he has coached future big leaguers in Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber, Michael Kopech and Yovani Gallardo.

What makes it even more special for Hernandez is that he knows these kids, and these kids know him. They don’t take guest players. They start the boys young and mold them into a cohesive unit.

“This is my 26th season,” he said. “And the fun part about our program is we get these kids when they are 10 years old and we bring them all the way up to 17u. We don’t fly anybody in. We develop our kids, and as you can see they like each other. It’s like a family. So that makes it a lot of fun.”

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