Band of Brothers:

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Pair of siblings have baseball in their blood at Pike County and Charles Henderson


Sports Editor

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Tyson Pugh didn’t have much to say about growing up as the youngest boy in the Pugh household.

Maybe it was because his brother, Clint, was holding a bat.

But Clint, the oldest by 18 months and starting third baseman for the Charles Henderson Trojans, insists the days of thrown punches and all-out brawling are behind him and his brother.

"We used to fight all the time, but now it’s sort of settled out since we’ve got older," says Clint, a junior. "When you grow up and get into high school it sort of stops. I think you mature a little."

But what about sibling rivalry? Does it ever really stop?

Not necessarily.

"Oh, now it’s always good to beat him because you never want to let your younger brother beat you in anything," says Clint about competing with Tyson.

Clint, Tyson and the Trojans head to Demopolis today for the first round of the AHSAA Class 5A State Baseball Playoffs. Over in Brundidge, Elijah and Josh Daniel will travel north with the Pike County Bulldogs to play fourth-ranked Dadeville in an opening round 3A game. Another set of brothers, Luke and Layton Sanders, played together on the Pike Liberal Arts School baseball team this season.

Elijah plays left field for the Bulldogs and says having your brother on the same team just makes the game that much fun.

"It just makes things better," he says. "We’re close and we may fight sometime, but that’s normal between brothers."

Like the Pughs, the Daniel brothers have been

on a baseball field since they were little boys, playing in Troy’s recreation leagues.

It all started with T-ball. From there the hits got harder and the pitches became faster as the two sets of brothers jumped from league to league, improving their skills with time.

While playing in the youth leagues, Clint and Tyson were watching their older brother Dax. Dax, now 21 years old, was who they admired and emulated.

He played for Charles Henderson also.

"I think we both have expectations to live up to with Dax," said Clint. "He was just so good. We’ve always played on the same team, but Dax is four years older then us. That’s why I haven’t looked at Tyson as any different then any other player because we’ve always played together."

Both players possess good athletic attributes according to CHHS head coach Steve Garrett.

"Tyson’s just a little taller, a little lankier," he said. "I think Clint’s more compact and stronger. He’s pretty strong and he’s a little quicker then Tyson. But Tyson’s been hitting the ball pretty good lately."

Clint’s quickness and eye for the ball have helped him excel at third base for the Trojans, a position commonly referred to as the infield’s ‘hot corner’. Right hand batters live for the moment when they can rip a fastball down the third base foul line for a basehit. A flat-footed third baseman could get scorched, hence the terminology.

That’s what Clint likes about the spot.

"You don’t have much time to think about what you’re going to do," he says. "It’s more like a reaction. It’s just there and you have to make the play."

Tyson, like a majority of the starters on this year’s Trojans’ baseball team, has had to make the adjustment from playing junior varsity ball to varsity.

Simply put, they’ve just had to grow up in a hurry.

"It’s been rough, but we’ve had to battle through it," Tyson says. "We had to work things out and move people around. It’s been a big step coming up to the varsity from JV. That’s a whole different thing."

Eight miles down the road in Brundidge, Josh Daniel, only a ninth grader, would probably be playing on a junior varsity team this season if the Bulldogs only had one. Pike County head coach Fred Holland is fielding his youngest team ever, a team comprised of sophomores, like Elijah, freshmen and eighth graders.

Still, the Bulldogs are playoff bound.

"Last season," says Elijah. " We struggled from the beginning to the end. This year we struggled but sort of came around toward the end and started playing good ball."

Elijah has moved in as the Bulldogs’ cleanup hitter this season and admits he’s been feeling some pressure to perform. As the No. 4 batter in the top of the order, it’s Elijah’s job to deliver a big hit and collect RBIs.

"When I was in the eighth grade I batted seventh," he says. "And I knew what was coming, usually a fastball. But now the pitchers are real selective with their pitches and they throw more curves to me so yeah, it’s a little more pressure."

Josh says he and Elijah engaged in their own brand of one-upmanship earlier in the season. Elijah had belted two home runs and Josh was second on the team with one.

"I wanted to see if I could out do him or something," Josh says. "But I tried to catch up with him and he just took off. Now he has five and I still only have one."

Both players not only get coaching from Holland before they step out of the dugout to hit but also their father, Herman Daniel, who sits behind home plate and tells them what to look for from the opposing team’s pitcher.

"Man, that’s like having another coach," says Elijah with a laugh. "He always tells me what I’m doing wrong at the plate."

"He’s my hitting coach," adds Josh. "If I strike out at the plate or something, he tells me what I did wrong."

For the Bulldogs, this year has been a step in the right direction, but the playoffs have been an unexpected surprise.

"This is my first year going to the playoffs," says Josh. "But even though we have a young team, there’s been times this season where we’ve played these teams with seniors and outplayed them."

The Trojans were given a second chance when Eufaula upset Carroll-Ozark to win the area, putting CHHS in as the area runner-up. The Tigers had defeated Charles Henderson twice this season, the last of which could have eliminated them from postseason contention.

Clint and the rest of his teammates thought the year was over.

"Our last practice we were out there and we looked at each other like there was no point really," he says.

"But now we have a chance."

Clint compares this year’s 9-16 record to Jackson High School’s team of two seasons ago. In 2000, the Aggies came into Hogan’s Hole with an equally poor record and upset the favored Trojans 9-8.

"They were just like we are now," he says. "That’s why I think we have a real good chance of going down there and beating Demopolis."