When Braxton Ashcraft was in the seventh grade — significantly smaller than the 6-foot-5 light pole he is today — he used to tell his coaches, “I want to go to school at Baylor someday.”

Six years and however many inches later, his dreams have fully matured.

Ashcraft, the reigning Super Centex Baseball Player of the Year from Robinson, lived out his fantasy by signing with Baylor’s baseball program on Wednesday, the first day of the NCAA’s fall signing period for a variety of sports, including baseball, softball, men’s and women’s basketball, and track and field.

“It’s relieving, for sure. It’s been something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time,” Ashcraft said. “It was my dream since I was a little kid. … So just to be able to make that dream come true is pretty cool.”

Ashcraft has more tools than Home Depot. On the mound, he boasts an arsenal of nasty pitches, and he fashioned a 9-1 record with a 2.11 ERA as a junior in the 2017 season. As a hitter, the ball “jumps off his bat,” said Robinson coach Bryan Kent, helping Ashcraft tally a .362 batting average with 35 runs scored, eight home runs and 37 RBIs last season.

But what Kent appreciates the most about Ashcraft is that he didn’t waste those tools and let them collect dust.

“Especially when you hear all the stories about people who are gifted who can’t put it together, that can’t make anything of themselves,” Kent said. “He’s doing that. That’s a testament to the way he was raised, and it’s a testament to his work ethic and his drive to want to be successful.”

Ashcraft has talked with Baylor head coach Steve Rodriguez and his assistants about helping the Bears as a two-way player, both on the mound and as a position player. Kent has no doubt that the 2017 Under Armour All-American has the potential to excel in whatever position he’s used.

After all, this is an athlete who set the Central Texas single-season football record for receiving in 2016 with 37 touchdown catches.

Ashcraft opted not to play football this year as a senior. Instead, with his signing out of the way, he is fully invested in the idea of bringing a state baseball championship back to Robinson. Last year, the Rockets reached the Class 4A state tournament for a second straight year, only to fall just short against Abilene Wylie, 6-5, in the title game.

“I was looking forward to next season last season,” Ashcraft said. “It’s going to be a cool opportunity. We’ve got almost everybody coming back. We’re going to have a good shot, we just have to put it on the field and make the most of it.”

Reicher’s Watson eager for Baylor journey

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Reicher’s Ana Watson inks with Baylor softball.

Ana Watson can’t wait to be a part of Baylor’s softball program. Wednesday morning — with a Baylor flag draped across the table, her family beside her and friends in the audience — she signed on the dotted line to become a Lady Bear.

“With all the work I’ve done so far over the summer and with select and stuff, it’s a major accomplishment,” Watson said. “It’s a major weight off my shoulders having to sign that paper finally and being able to play for Baylor.”

Watson has been on the varsity softball team at Reicher for three years. The center fielder has earned Super Centex honorable mention honors, TAPPS Division III First-Team All-District, TAPPS Div. III First-Team All-State and the TAPPS Softball Div. III All-Tournament team.

Watson chose Baylor because of its winning tradition, its proximity to home and head coach Glenn Moore.

“I can go home every day, basically, and see all my friends still from high school and come home and see the football games,” Watson said. “Coach Moore is like another dad to me. He’s funny and a lot of fun to get along with. … Getting to play with Baylor gives you the confidence that you can be a part of a team that’s been to the World Series a lot of times and gone great. I’m just excited to be a part of that.”

Waco High baseball players moving on to next level

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Waco High’s Tanner Haney (right) signed up with the University of Texas to play baseball, while Ruben Torres inked with Brookhaven College.

The sign outside Waco High on Wednesday morning read, “Lion pride never dies. Hard work pays off.”

Those words were reflected in the Lions’ gym Wednesday morning as Ruben Torres and Tanner Haney signed national letters of intent to play baseball in college as Torres signed with Brookhaven Community College and Haney signed with Texas.

“I’ve been waiting for this my whole life,” Torres said. “I’ve been working hard to get here.”

Haney struggled to find the words to describe the feeling of officially putting pen to paper. He landed on relief and excitement as he will now officially follow in his parents’ footsteps. They both went to Texas.

Haney, an infielder, was named First-Team All-District second baseman last year. In his career at Waco High, Haney has hit .387 with a .519 slugging percentage and .926 fielding percentage. Torres, an all-district third baseman a season ago, has hit .360 with a .487 slugging percentage and a .917 fielding percentage at Waco High.

Lorena’s successful softball duo makes it official

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Lorena softball players Emma Tindell (left) and Rachel Williams signed with Schreiner University and Tarleton State, respectively.

If Emma Tindell hadn’t been signing a letter of intent by her side, Rachel Williams doesn’t think she could have made it through the signing ceremony at Lorena High School as most of her classmates showed up to show their support.

Tindell, who signed with Schreiner, has been a big part of Lorena’s offense since her freshman year, while Williams, the returning Super Centex Player of the Year, signed with Tarleton State.

“I’m very excited,” Williams said. “Having all these people here today to support me and everything is great. … Everything about Tarleton is great. They have really good traditions, good softball team. I love the coaches, the girls, all the people there, Stephenville, everything is great.”

For Tindell, Wednesday afternoon’s celebration has been a long time coming.

“I’ve been playing for 13 years,” Tindell said. “I’ve been looking forward to this since I was little. I’m really excited. … Schreiner is beautiful. It’s far enough away from home that I’m not super close but also if I want to come home on the weekend I totally can.”

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