For some, the mission is to get there again. For others, it’s get there for the first time.
Ultimately, “there” remains a constant for all the teams beginning play in the UIL state baseball playoffs this weekend. Naturally, everyone wants to reach the state tournament.
Robinson (22-2) rumbled all the way to Austin’s Disch-Falk Field in 2016. It marked the sixth state tournament appearance in school history for the Rockets, though the first since 2012.
Numerous letter-winners from that squad are back for another go-round for the Rockets, ranked third in Class 4A by the Texas Association of High School Baseball Coaches. That experience figures to be helpful, even if it is accompanied by some added pressure.
“The expectation is always high with this program,” Robinson coach Bryan Kent said. “All year long they expect they’re going to end up in Austin. Which is good motivation. Sometimes it makes it difficult knowing that expectation is hanging there, but I think anytime you have some experience it helps you know what to expect. You understand if you’re going to make that run, you’re going to have to battle for five rounds to get there.”
Led by senior pitcher Dru Dziedzic and junior infielder/pitcher Braxton Ashcraft, the Rockets will open up Class 4A bi-district action with a three-game series against Fairfield starting Friday.
While Robinson may be more familiar with the dirt at Disch-Falk, plenty of other programs in Central Texas are well-equipped to make that journey to Austin or Round Rock’s Dell Diamond, the other state tourney site.
Groesbeck (20-5) has assembled a breakthrough season in its first since dropping from Class 4A to 3A. The Goats reached the area round of the playoffs in 2016, but this season they’re looking to climb even higher up the mountain. Groesbeck owns a current No. 8 state ranking, and the Goats went 10-2 to win District 19-3A, a powerhouse league that also includes the likes of Troy, Clifton and two-time defending state champion West.
“The main reason (for the breakthrough) is that I’m in my fourth year at Groesbeck now, and most of these guys have been starting for me for at least three years,” said Groesbeck coach Cameron Sellstrom. “So they’re starting their 90th or 100th varsity baseball games. When you look at it in that perspective, that experience is paying off. Ever since they showed up in January or February, they’ve been saying, ‘Hey, we want to have a great year.’”
Groesbeck opens with Lexington, an unfamiliar opponent for the Goats. “It may be the first time we’ve played them in any sport, I don’t know,” Sellstrom said.
The coach just wants his team to understand that all that matters now is the next pitch. Sellstrom doesn’t want his guys getting blinded by the allure of Dell Diamond, as that destination remains a month – and many hits, pitches and wins – away.
“It’s an every-week battle now,” Sellstrom said. “We can’t get caught looking too far down the road, get caught up looking at the big picture of state. We’ve got to take it one game, one pitch, one at-bat at a time, and hopefully at the end that lighted monster goes our way.”
Elsewhere, Midway (19-9-1) will look to extend its first season under new head coach Eddie Cornblum when it faces Irving Nimitz in the 6A bi-district round. The Lorena-Madisonville series could be a dandy in 4A, the West Trojans will begin their quest at a 3A three-peat against Franklin at the Waco ISD Complex, and Class 2A features a variety of teams that have made deep runs in recent years, including Mart, Crawford, Riesel and Bosqueville, the latter of which reached state in 2016.
And don’t sleep on the No. 1-ranked Abbott Panthers of Class 1A, which gets its own separate tournament this year. For more on Abbott’s sensational season, check out Friday’s Tribune-Herald.
Central Texas represented in seasonal awards
The Texas Association of Soccer Coaches (TASCO) has released its postseason all-region and all-state teams, and several Central Texas stars earned recognition.
Waco High senior Jonathan Gonzalez made first-team all-state in Class 5A, after a season in which he scored 10 goals and delivered eight assists for the Lions. Gonzalez was also selected to play in the TASCO all-star game at Mary Hardin-Baylor in July.
Waco High goalkeeper Pablo Negrete was a second-team all-state pick, while defender Ildefonso Vasquez picked up all-region honors.
On the girls’ side, Belton sophomore goalkeeper Gracie Green (14 shutouts) graced the all-region first team, while her teammate, defender Erica Anderson, made the second team.
In Class 4A, Super Centex Player of the Year Maddie Miller of Lorena, who led Central Texas with 38 goals, made second-team all-region.
Additionally, La Vega’s boys assistant Bob Sheehy and Lorena girls assistant Andrew Kohls were selected as the top assistant coaches in their region.
University to hold Cinco de Mayo party
University High School will hold a Cinco De Mayo party on Friday to celebrate its popular Soccer Buddy program, which pairs up varsity soccer players with area youth in mentorship roles.
The party will run from 6 to 9 p.m. at the high school. All soccer buddies, their parents and family members are invited, and admission is free. The event will include free hot dogs and drinks, bounce houses, face painting, carnival games and drawings for prizes.
Vanguard boys’ golf streak ends
One of the more impressive streaks in Central Texas high school sports history has come to an end.
Vanguard’s boys golf team saw its run of consecutive state TAPPS championships conclude on Tuesday. The Vikings finished out of the top five at the TAPPS 4A tournament, which wrapped up at Cottonwood Creek Golf Course. Vanguard had won 12 straight state titles coming into the season.
The Vikings had rounds of 368 on Monday and 372 on Tuesday for a 740 total, 82 strokes behind the champion Midland Trinity. Niklas Larson led Vanguard with rounds of 91 and 85.
Meanwhile, Vanguard’s girls team saw its own streak of four straight state titles also end. The Lady Vikings fiinished seventh with a 910 total, while Midland Trinity won at 727. Vanguard’s Kendall Eastland shot 93 and 101 to finish in sixth in the 4A individual chase.