AUSTIN – Dru Dziedzic is the most superstitious person in the Robinson dugout.
He wears the same everything for every game, except last week against China Spring in the Region III final.
Earlier in the week, one of the charms from his necklace went down the drain, but the senior pitcher figured he might not need to get a new one.
Well, Dziedzic “pitched like crap” – as he put it – against China Spring (three runs allowed off five hits through two innings), and thus he made it a priority to pick up a new charm on Monday before Robinson’s state semifinal game on Wednesday.
With everything in order – he’s the reason Robinson has worn only the blue camo uniforms with the blue hats this postseason, in addition to him wearing the same socks and same underwear – the Rockets run-ruled Sinton, 10-0, in six innings in the state semifinals at UFCU Disch-Falk Field in Austin.
“It was a lot better than last week,” Dziedzic said with a grin. “That’s all I have to say. It just worked today. Everything worked.”
Dziedzic shut out the Pirates while allowing four hits with three strikeouts and forcing 11 groundouts.
He was efficient, throwing only 74 pitches through six innings.
“He was able to throw fastball, curveball and changeup for strikes,” Robinson coach Bryan Kent said. “When you can throw three pitches for strikes, it’s going to make you tough.”
After the top of the first, Dziedzic pitched with a lead for the rest of the game.
To lead things off for the Rockets at the plate, Jake Strain hit a grounder to shortstop and beat out the throw to first. Mason Cooper was up next and reached first off a throwing error by Sinton’s shortstop, who was rushing to get his throw to the base on time.
With two runners in scoring position, that set things up nicely for Peyton Powell and Dziedzic, who each had an RBI to give Robinson a 2-0 lead.
That lead stretched to six following the second inning after, once again, the Rocket leadoff hitter beat out a throw at first to start things off.
This time, it was Jordan Rogers who hit a slow roller to second and made it to the bag just in time. He came around and scored off a sacrifice hit by Strain before Cooper scored two more off a double to right field and crossed home plate himself off a single by Powell.
“If you see those boxing gloves (in our dugout), we talk about fight and finish,” Kent said. “Sometimes we make people make mistakes because of the effort we put out. We stress it. Play as hard as you possibly can. If you do that then good things will happen. We weren’t pounding the ball in the first few innings, but we were getting our butts out of the box and making it tough on them.”
Robinson didn’t score again until the fifth inning, as Braxton Ashcraft came home on an RBI single to right field by Moseley.
Meanwhile, behind Dziedzic’s pitching and the Rockets’ defense, Sinton produced just two baserunners through the first five innings.
An inning later, it seemed almost inevitable that the shutout was about to end.
The Pirates loaded the bases off back-to-back singles and a walk with one out.
Dziedzic said he “schemed” the walk. Kent wasn’t so sure.
Whether or not it was on purpose, the Rockets retired the next two batters — Brett Brown hit a ground ball to Chris Morrow who threw to home plate for the force out and then Cameron Culver hit a grounder to Jordan Rogers who touched second to end the frame.
“That was huge,” Kent said. “They loaded the bases and had their best hitter come up. We got him to ground out and made an incredible play at home. That was big. At that point it took the wind out of their sails. We were in control.”
Riding that momentum, the Rockets ended things in the bottom of the frame.
Jace Walker led off the inning with a single, and Strain was walked which put runners on first and second with no outs.
That brought Cooper to the plate.
At that point, he was 2-for-3 with two runs scored and a pair of RBIs. Cooper watched ball one and ball two go by before he blasted the first strike he saw deep into center field for a two-run triple.
“That dude is a stud,” Dziedzic said. “That’s all I can say. He’s come up big all year.”
Added Kent, “He thrives in moments like this. He’s a winner. He’s a gamer. He’s everything you would want to coach — low maintenance, plays hard, loves the game.”
Cooper was also a bit of an insomniac the night before the semifinal contest.
He was just too excited to sleep.
“I asked one of coaches before the game, ‘Do people ever run-rule people in the state semis?’” Cooper said. “I just had a feeling. I couldn’t sleep last night. I stayed up until, like, 4 o’clock and woke up at 7 o’clock. I sped to the school because I felt good. I was ready to go. Just had a good feeling.”
Cooper answered his own question as his foot touched home plate for Robinson’s 10th run of the day off a single by Powell.
Kent wasn’t far behind Cooper as he headed toward Robinson’s dugout with his fist in the air.
“This was incredible,” Kent said. “If you would have told me today’s game would have gone like that, I don’t know if I would have believed you. That stuff doesn’t normally happen. When you pitch well and you play really good defense, like what we did today, you’re going to have a chance. Dru was really good. Our defense was really good, too.
“I’m extremely proud. We can’t ask for anything more than a shot to win a state championship.”