There’s no doubt in Mason Cooper’s mind that Bryan Kent has his back on the field or off.
Cooper — like most of the Robinson Rockets and their coach, Kent — enjoys going fishing.
They all send pictures back and forth to each other of the fish they’ve caught, competing to see who can hook the biggest bass.
One day while Cooper and some buddies were out fishing, he got a phone call from his coach, but Kent wasn’t bragging about his own catch.
“We may have been fishing somewhere we shouldn’t have been,” Cooper said. “(Kent) called us and was like, ‘Hey, y’all need to leave. The game warden is calling and saying he saw Robinson hats or something.’ We were like, ‘OK, yeah. We’re leaving.’”
While fishing provides a real life connection between coach and player, there’s something deeper going on in that Robinson dugout that has the Rockets working to bring their coach a state championship.
It’s a special bond Kent has with his players, one that comes from a coach leading his alma mater.
“This is all I know,” Kent said. “I bleed blue. I love this school. I love our kids. I love our program. I couldn’t be happier that those guys get to go through the same things I got to go through as a player.”
But this season’s Rockets are looking for one thing Kent didn’t experience during his playing career at Robinson.
Actually, no Rocket in the history of the program has ever accomplished the only goal left on Robinson’s list this season.
“There’s never been a state championship won in this sport in the history of this school,” Braxton Ashcraft said. “He went here and was successful, now that he’s here he’s been a coach here and has been successful as a coach. I think it’s important for us as players to get him that win. I think it’s important for us to get him that state championship that he’s been short on, that we’ve been short on as players.”
The Rockets have that chance as they head to Austin for the second consecutive season and fourth time in seven years (2011, 2012, 2016).
Robinson (30-2) is slated to take on Sinton (30-5-2) at 1 p.m. Wednesday at UFCU Disch-Falk Field in Austin.
“I’m hoping the fourth time’s the charm,” Kent said. “We’ve been pretty fortunate to get to experience Austin three other times. Obviously in those trips we wish things would have worked out a little better, but in the end it’s the experience that the kids get that can’t be taken away. It’s something they’ll remember forever.”
Many of the Rockets this season remember their trip to Austin a year ago.
And that memory alone provided plenty of motivation for this season.
“I really think it’s driven us to work harder, practice harder and stay focused,” Cooper said. “Last year we kind of beat ourselves because we didn’t focus. It’s the only reason we lost.”
Looking at these Rockets now — who haven’t lost a game since March 9 (Waxahachie 4-1) — they’re peaking at the right time.
Behind timely hitting and stellar pitching, Robinson has reached the state tournament unscathed through the playoffs.
“We’ve played really well,” pitcher Dru Dziedzic said. “We’ve played our best baseball. During the regular season we didn’t play real well as a team and stuff. We still had stuff to figure out. As soon as the playoffs started we put it together.”
Most recently, the Rockets topped district foe China Spring, 8-4, at Baylor Ballpark in the Region III-4A final to punch its ticket to Austin.
Even amidst all the joy as gloves flew in the air and the Rockets dogpiled near their dugout, there was a sense of expectation above the exuberance.
“It was exciting, but I went to Austin last year,” Cooper said. “It just felt like we should have done that. This coming Wednesday, and hopefully Thursday, is going to be a lot more fun even though that was exciting.”
It’s been an exciting season so far for the Rockets.
And they don’t expect that excitement to stop any time soon as the Rockets are in a state tournament featuring defending state champs (Abilene Wylie), last year state tournament participant Pleasant Grove (that’s in its eighth state tournament in the last 10 seasons) and Sinton, a team back in Austin for the first time since 2014.
“It’s been a really fun ride,” Ashcraft said. “This postseason has been one of the most fun times of my life. These guys, I love them more than the game itself. I think this is going to be special.”