AUSTIN — Bryan Kent brings them up every time he talks about his team.
Those boxing gloves have hung above the Robinson dugout all season long, symbolizing the fight of this Rocket squad.
It was a fight that never faltered or waned throughout the year, especially in the Class 4A state final Thursday night at UFCU Disch-Falk Field in Austin.
But after seven innings of relentless strife for the ultimate prize, Robinson fell short to defending state champion Abilene Wylie, 6-5.
“I couldn’t be more proud,” Kent said. “The way this season ended, I mean, they played as hard as they possibly could. We just came up a little short on the scoreboard. I told them that just because it wasn’t enough on the scoreboard doesn’t mean it wasn’t enough. (It was) everything I could have asked for from them.”
Robinson drew first blood in the bottom of the second as Chris Morrow’s RBI single scored Braxton Ashcraft who, after he touched home plate, leaped nearly all the way to the dugout.
That lead didn’t last long, though, as Wylie quickly popped back with three runs the following inning to take a two-run lead off three straight extra-base hits deep into the outfield.
“They’re a really good hitting team,” Ashcraft said. “They’re a really good fastball-hitting team. If I had kept the ball low in the zone, my fastballs low in the zone, and had more sharp breaking ball, I think the outcome would have been a little different this game. But I didn’t have my best stuff today. They capitalized on it.”
Instead of folding after Abilene Wylie’s big third inning, the Rockets did what they’ve done all season.
They fought back.
Ashcraft singled to score Powell before Dru Dziedzic scored off a ground ball by Jordan Rogers to the pitcher.
While Dziedzic crossed the plate, things got heated around second as Ashcraft slid through the bag and knocked down Bulldog shortstop Zach Smith.
“I told him he has to calm his nerves,” Kent said. “We have a game to play. We can’t have any extracurriculars. This is a team of fighters. It’s the state championship. It was pretty exciting.”
Ashcraft listened to his coach and struck out the first Abilene Wylie batter he saw in the top of the fourth.
From that point on, he only allowed two more runs — one off a single by Cameron Hanna, the other a homer by Smith — while striking out five.
At the plate, Robinson didn’t score again until the sixth inning.
The Rockets trailed 5-3 heading into the bottom of the frame and got two quick outs.
That’s when the rally started as Jake Strain singled and Mason Cooper was plunked to put two on. Powell then stepped to the plate and ripped a single to right field which scored Strain.
“I wouldn’t expect anything less,” Kent said. “The boxing gloves represent fight. We gave it everything we had.”
That cut Robinson’s deficit to one, but Abilene Wylie wasn’t finished.
With Mason Cooper on the mound, the Bulldogs plated another off an RBI single to right field by Caleb Munton with two runners on.
Another run would have scored for Abilene Wylie, but Dru Dziedzic gunned him down at the plate to end the frame.
That left three outs for the Rockets to come back trailing by two.
Ashcraft entered the batter’s box to lead things off for Robinson and demolished a home run to left.
With the deficit cut to one, the Rockets couldn’t get anything else going at the plate as three straight groundouts sealed the win for Abilene Wylie.
“I didn’t want to jinx anything,” Ashcraft said. “I just wanted to get around the bases, get back in the dugout and watch my team win the ballgame. I did everything I could. I know my teammates did everything they could. We just didn’t get the result we wanted. That’s baseball. That’s why we play the game.
“We felt pretty confident coming into the game. They were just the better baseball team today.”