When Todd Beamer freshman Haley Tyree approached the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning with runners on first and second against Decatur, her instructions from Titan coach Brian Hering were simple.
His signs indicated the bunt-and-run was on, but Tyree didn’t bunt. Instead, she took a high fastball for ball one while the runners tried to advance.
Tyree’s bold move nearly caused Jimena Cervantes to be thrown out while trying to steal third, and Hering promptly let his freshman know she didn’t do the job asked of her.
The pressure worked.
On the very next pitch, Tyree drove a Sophia Musiak fastball 207 feet over the right-center field wall for a three-run homer to end the game, an 11-1 win over the Golden Gators, Tuesday, at Todd Beamer High School.
For Tyree, the home run was her first as a Titan (4-3) and her first in quite some time. As Tyree rounded second base, she couldn’t hold the tears back any longer. Once Tyree reached home plate, she was overcome with emotion and was immediately embraced by her teammates.
“I just really haven’t naturally been a confident hitter,” an emotional Tyree said. “When it went over the fence, I was just, felt so happy and proud of myself. Honestly, I just never thought I could do it, and I did it.”
Hering has tested Tyree this season.
Though she is one of nine freshmen on the Beamer varsity roster this season, Hering’s had his eye on Tyree for longer than he can remember. What caught his eye is her ability to adapt to any given situation.
Tyree is the Titans’ leadoff hitter, a spot in the batting order she’s never held until this season.
“She’s never done it before. It’s kind of cool,” Hering said. “And she’s playing up [on varsity], so it’s been really exciting. Our thing with her is that she’s got so much speed, we’re not asking her to hit the long ball. She was just going to be my leadoff hitter. We weren’t expecting that [home run] at all.”
Tyree did just fine with the basic leadoff duties. Her RBI single in the second inning put the Titans up 5-0, and her run-scoring sacrifice fly in the fourth inning made it 7-1.
Coming into the season, Hering wanted the Titans to produce more than just the average station-to-station offense. He and his coaches have since worked with players to hit for power.
Hering knew this would be a challenging adjustment for Tyree, the speedster.
“If she hits the ball on the ground, she’s going to outrun a lot of hits,” he said. “When she gets on, she does a lot of stuff for us.”
Tyree’s walk-off against Decatur was the result of countless hours of hitting balls with Hering.
Two hours before for a scheduled game, Hering will likely be there with Tyree and any other players who want to join, serving up batting practice.
If the Titans come away with a tough loss like they did against Bellarmine or Auburn Mountainview, Hering is more than willing to host another hitting session postgame for an hour or two.
Tyree said, without her coaches’ dedication this season, she wouldn’t be able to hit that ball over the fence.
“He’s the best coach I’ve ever had, at any level,” Tyree said. “He spends so much time working with us on an individual level to make our swings better.”
The hours of work the two have dedicated to Tyree’s swing has produced results. Through her first seven games, she’s hitting .291, with one home run and seven RBIs.
Hering’s next project with his leadoff hitter is improving her confidence.
A good leadoff hitter has to make a lot of sacrifices, and Hering required Tyree to sacrifice herself for the team in the sixth inning so his power hitters could put the game away for the Titans.
Instead, his timid freshman found the confidence to swing for the fences, and Tyree not only found it, she cleared it by five feet.
“When I first started with her, all she wanted to do was chase pitches, but like we saw with this swing, when she swings at decent pitches, she is somebody who can do serious damage,” Hering laughed.