Robinson baseball

Robinson head baseball coach Bryan Kent has his Rockets one win away from the state tournament.

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte

Bryan Kent hasn’t been as lucky as he’d like to be this postseason.

The coin flip has been a bit tricky for the Robinson baseball coach.

With the depth of his pitching staff and talent overflowing from the dugout, Kent would rather play a three-game playoff series instead of having to battle it out in a do-or-die one-game event.

In the regional semifinals against West Orange-Stark, the Rockets pulled out a 4-2 victory.

On Thursday, Robinson (29-2) will have one chance to top district rival China Spring (24-10-1) to punch its ticket to the state tournament in Austin at 7 p.m. Thursday at Baylor Ballpark.

“People have been giving me a hard time about losing the coin flips,” Kent said. “I’d rather lose the flip than the game and win the game rather than the flip.”

No matter how the coin flip has come out so far this postseason, the Rockets have handled their business.

Through the four rounds of playoffs so far, Robinson has topped its opponent by an average of 7.43 runs per game.

While the Rocket offense has put up 62 runs off of 53 hits in its last seven games, it’s been the Robinson defense paired with its aces on the mound that have the Rockets one win away from Austin.

Pitchers Braxton Aschraft and Dru Dziedzic have thrown in every playoff game for Robinson.

They combined to allow just 10 runs off 25 hits while striking out 56 batters during that time.

“Both of those guys are extremely tough competitors,” Kent said. “They both have the goal to be on the mound. When it becomes crunch time is when they both thrive. They have the same push to compete which in turn makes them pretty close. They get along with each other pretty well. They fight the same battles as far as being pitchers and leaders of our team. Both of them do really well. They each give us a really good chance to win.”

But when it comes to these one-game series, Kent can only pitch one of them at a time.

So how does he choose?

“It could go one of two ways,” Kent said. “The way I look at is that I can’t go wrong. I can’t make a wrong choice. If something happens, the other one is right there to pick up the slack. I don’t think you can lose picking one over the other.”

Looking back at the prior two match-ups between Robinson and China Spring this season, Dziedzic and Ashcraft each started on the mound.

On March 7, Dziedzic earned the start and threw 3⅓ innings before Ashcraft came in for 2⅓.

The duo combined to give up five runs off seven hits with 11 strikeouts.

Ashcraft matched that strikeout total on his own nearly a month later when the Rockets defeated the Cougars 3-1.

Despite the success Robinson had against China Spring during the regular season, Kent has told his players to throw the records and thoughts that history should repeat itself out the window.

“Not only are we in the playoffs now but it was a really long time ago,” Kent said. “The first time we played them was in the beginning of March and then again in the beginning of April. We are both completely different teams than what we were back then. My message to the team is that we have to go out and do the things we know and play the game like we know how to play. Don’t worry about who we’re playing. Just play.”

After the Rockets’ first win over China Spring, they dropped their second loss of the season to Waxahachie.

While Robinson hasn’t lost since then, the Rockets have progressed to where they are now behind a renewed leadership, if you will, from the seniors.

“We were fortunate to win quite a few games early on, but even though we were winning things weren’t where they needed to be,” Kent said. “We had a heart-to-heart with our seniors to help them understand what it meant to be a leader and that they will be leaving this program soon and what their legacy would be. ... They’ve embraced that challenge and have made a difference in this team going forward. They’ve allowed us to become closer as a team.”

With leadership the key to Robinson peaking at the right time, Kent had to take a minute to figure out how to describe this Rocket playoff run so far.

After taking a deep breath, Kent knew the perfect way to sum it all up despite the ending currently standing wide open.

“They’re always tough, you know,” he said. “When you get to the playoffs and play good teams, you have all this pressure because if you don’t play well your season is over. We’ve been able to string together some really good games. We’ve been able to play well the past several games. With the talent we have, we’ve given ourselves the chance to win.”

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