The Tigers enjoyed one of the finest seasons in school history, going 24-11 while making it to the state semifinals for the first time since 1986.
The Tigers did it with a team composed mostly of underclassmen, meaning expectations will be sky-high next spring.
Garner said this team “set a standard, raised the bar. That’s what I told the younger guys coming back. This is what we expect now. Obviously we have to get back here and surpass this and hopefully raise the bar even higher.”
The Tigers will not return entirely intact.
Five seniors are moving on, including Cody Sheffield, who hit 11 home runs this season, and Jackson Oliver, a four-year starter in the outfield.
Also gone is infielder Spencer Murphy, as well as role players Howard Mingo and Jordan Crowe.
Only two of the seniors were everyday players, though.
Seven of the nine starters will return, as will two of the top three pitchers, Garrett McClurg and Jacob Ozley.
McClurg was brilliant in the playoffs with a 4-0 record, and Ozley was terrific as well, and he hung in there nicely against Columbus on Tuesday and threw a complete game.
Among the position players, all of the infielders, with the exception of Sheffield at first base, will be back, as will two of the starting outfielders.
Oliver, who’ll be taking his hacks against college pitchers next season, said he’s looking forward to seeing what the 2013 Tigers can do.
“They’re all coming back, so we’ll be watching them play in the future,” Oliver said. “They showed that if they play what they can do.”
Added Sheffield: “If they play this hard, next year they ought to be something.”
As bright as the future seems, Tuesday was about reflection, though.
After the game, the players and coaches huddled for awhile, and the tears were flowing freely as everyone bid farewell to the seniors.
“When we broke, we got them all out here and let the coaches and all the underclassmen kind of say their goodbyes,” Garner said.
Sheffield said he was grateful that his senior season was such a special one.
“It’s been great,” he said. “We’ll always remember it. Having everybody’s back and just supporting everybody, that’s what you call a team. Sometimes you don’t have that.”