There wasn’t a more recognizable baseball player in Central Texas than Midway’s Kramer Robertson. And the swirl of contributing factors at play stretched beyond just the diamond.
Robertson has been a visible star on the Midway baseball and football teams for the past four years. He also spent some time as a guard on the Midway basketball team. As a junior quarterback, he helped guide Midway to the Class 4A Division I football state title game in 2011. A year later, as a senior, he ran the show as Midway made a somewhat surprising run to the 5A Division II quarterfinals.
But baseball has always been Robertson’s sport. He committed to LSU before his junior year, and he hit .438 last year to earn first-team Super Centex status for a second straight year. This year, after another season in which he batted over .420, he cemented his status as one of the best pure hitters in the state.
But there’s the simple matter of Robertson’s mother, Baylor women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey, who owns celebrity status in this part of the world. Robertson’s older sister, Makenzie, stuck around in Waco to play for mom after a similarly distinguished high school career at Midway ended in 2010.
That wasn’t for Robertson. He wanted to create his own niche outside Waco. And he’s excited to get started.
“My whole life, and I’m sure it will continue for my whole life, people will say that he only got this or that because of his mom,” Robertson said. “Did I hit .430 because of my mom? That’s what I like to ask people. I like to let my play speak for itself, but there are always going to be those naysayers... I think that made me a better baseball player. It made me mentally stronger.
“Part of the reason I’m going to LSU is because I want to start my own name and start my legacy.”
Robertson is the 2013 Super Centex Player of the Year because of the high school legacy he finished knitting together on the field as a senior. He hit .425, smacked 15 doubles and drove in 38 runs during Midway’s run to the second round of the 5A playoffs.
He did all this despite getting few good pitches to hit. By his junior year, Robertson’s name had filtered into opposing scouting reports as a No. 1 target, and pitchers rarely gave him much to hit this year. As former stars like Matthew Kent and Ryan Smith moved on before Robertson’s junior year started, that left it to Robertson to pick up the slack as one of the team’s leaders over his final two years.
He heard the jeers for the first time before the first game of his junior year, fresh off his commitment to baseball hotbed LSU. He bobbled a ball during warm-ups and the cry came out of the stands.
“Mr. LSU out there can’t field a ground ball.”
The attention only intensified. Midway lost out on the District 8-5A title this season on the final game of the regular season at Belton on a walk-off hit by Jared Janczak, and Robertson was berated with chants of ‘overrated’ all night. That was only the tip of the iceberg.
He got a measure of closure in Midway’s only postseason series victory of his senior year, which came in the bi-district round over Cedar Hill. Robertson threw a game-changing pick-six in the season-ending football playoff loss to Cedar Hill, and each time he walked up to bat in Game 3 of the baseball series, the entire Cedar Hill dugout showered him with ‘pick-six’ chants.
Robertson went 4-for-4 from the plate that day as the Panthers secured the series in a wild 13-12 win. Each time he got a hit, he’d casually shoot the Cedar Hill dugout a wink.
“At first it was frustrating, but I almost take it as a compliment,” Robertson said. “Most everywhere I go, most every team, the guys knew my name and the fans had something to say to me. You can’t let that get to you. It’s going to be worse in the SEC next year. I liked it.”
Robertson’s biggest adjustment this year came at the plate, where he had to adjust to pitchers consciously throwing him junk. It caused Robertson to sit down with Midway coach Paul Offill early in the season to try and mitigate some of his overanxious swings.
“I just wanted to go out there and play,” Robertson said. “I didn’t want to think about stuff like that. It got frustrating at times. I was a little overanxious at the beginning of the year, especially with scouts in the stands. I wanted to go up there and hit the ball. I didn’t want to go up there and walk.”
Things got better once Offill counseled him against chasing pitches out of frustration. Once Robertson started letting games evolve naturally, his numbers spiked. Robertson starts his LSU career this fall. The Tigers’ depth chart is continually choked with some of the best college players in the country, and the coaching staff has already told Robertson to prepare for a move from shortstop to second base.
But the memories he’ll leave behind in Waco won’t soon fade.
“I hope I left a good legacy,” Robertson said. “I’ve always played hard, did things the right way. I hope guys that are coming up and watched me play, I hope they try and model themselves after me and keep the legacy of Midway baseball going.”
Coach: Steve Sebesta, Troy
The intricacies of postseason coaching have never been lost on Steve Sebesta.
Entering his ninth year at the controls of the Troy baseball team, Sebesta knew better than most the kind of delicate touch it takes to navigate a three-game postseason series. After all, he’d done it plenty before.
So when Troy twice lost Game 1s in the regional quarterfinal and semifinal rounds of the Class 2A playoffs, perhaps nobody was better equipped for the task of steering the Trojans through troubled waters.
That went double for the Nacogdoches Central Heights semifinal series, when Sebesta only decided to throw Texas commit Jon Malmin in Game 3 the morning of the game. It was a shrewd decision, because Troy won the series in three thanks in part to Malmin’s commanding presence in the rubber match.
“It’s difficult, and a lot of people don’t realize how hard it is,” Sebesta said. “We didn’t make the decision to pitch Jon until that morning at breakfast. It all depends. If you win Game 1, you have a little bit of room to work, and if you lose Game 1, obviously you have to throw your ace in Game 2. There’s a lot of decision-making that goes on after a game at night in the hotel. You kind of go to bed and you wake up, and you might have a different decision when you wake up.”
Sebesta’s Trojans went a perfect 12-0 to ease to the district title, and they finished the year 28-11-2 after cruising into the Region III final series against No. 2 Salado. Troy again went three games against Salado but simply ran out of arms, as the Eagles crushed Troy, 11-0, in five innings to nab the state bid. It was as far as the Trojans had been since 1983, when they went to their only state tournament.
Troy may not have gotten to state, but Sebesta’s keen eye for game management got them to the doorstep. The Trojans lost Game 1 of their series against Teague in the regional quarters, and No. 2 pitcher Nathan Schleede guided them into the next round on the back of an 11-4 win. Sebesta opted to go with Malmin in Game 2 of that series.
He shook things up in the next series against Central Heights. Featuring Arkansas-committed ace Alex Phillips, the Blue Devils lost Game 1 and then threw Phillips in Game 2. Sebesta gambled, essentially giving Phillips the edge in Game 2 to save Malmin for Game 3. The tactic, which Salado then used with ace Casey Frazier to get past Troy, worked like a breeze.
Because of an avalanche of small tweaks, Sebesta turned a good season into a great one.
“It was a pretty successful season for us,” Sebesta said. “Obviously it didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but when you look back on it, the truth is there’s not a lot of teams that get the chance to play in a regional final. For us, that’s a successful season, although we didn’t reach our ultimate goal. We were fortunate to be able to play that long and have that opportunity to play to get to a state tournament.”
Newcomer of the year: Jaden Redfield, Midway
Jaden Redfield had his work cut out for him at the beginning of the season.
The Midway junior lefty pitcher had just been called up to the varsity, and he was mired in a clogged stable of pitchers, none of whom had much of a leg up on
the other. If Redfield was going to make an impact on varsity, he’d have to do it with essentially a blank slate. And he’d have to do it fast.
By the end of Midway’s pre-district tournament season, Redfield hadn’t just established himself as a viable starting option for the coaching staff. He’d assumed the top slot as the team’s Tuesday starter.
“We didn’t know he’d end up being our No. 1 guy,” Midway coach Paul Offill said. “The thing about Jaden is his ball has so much movement on it.”
Redfield had previous playing experience before this year, but not a ton in adverse situations. As a sophomore, he flashed some natural ability on the junior varsity team, but his rawness prevented the coaching staff from bumping him up to varsity as an underclassmen. He simply needed more seasoning.
After a summer spent with the Waco Storm club team, Redfield had a chance to further develop his fastball, curveball and changeup, which navigated him through his junior season with a perfect 8-0 record and a 1.31 ERA. He flashed his trademark control by striking out 46 and walking just eight, and he gave up a mere eight earned runs in 42 1/3 innings.
On a team with as many talented arms as Midway’s, Redfield’s move up the depth chart was no mean feat. By the end of the year, he was fully ensconced as the team’s go-to pitcher in tough-out situations, and he’d begun adding a cut fastball to the mix to further confuse batters.
“He cruised through the tournaments,” Offill said. “When he pitched, you could just see our defense gain confidence. They knew he was going to be in the zone. You could see our team was comfortable with him on the mound because they felt he was going to keep us in the game, and he always did.”
2012 SUPER CENTEX TEAM
Pos Player Cl. Avg. Notable School
C C.J. Collins Jr .495 40 RBIs Bosqueville
1B Zek Kleypas Sr .405 27 runs Crawford
2B Dylan Janek Sr .370 40 hits West
3B Freddy Rios Sr .360 21 RBIs University
SS Kramer Robertson Sr .425 38 RBIs Midway
OF Zac Law Jr .377 41 runs Robinson
OF Bobby Strahan Jr .406 27 RBIs Lorena
OF Payne Sullins Jr .526 11 2B Reicher
DH Mason George Sr .404 57 runs C. Spring
UT Tucker Johnson Jr .438 44 RBIs C. Spring
Pos Player Cl. W-L ERA School
P Blake Bottoms Jr 11-2 2.00 C. Spring
P Jared Janczak Jr 6-0 2.14 Belton
P Jon Malmin Sr 11-1 1.24 Troy
P Brett Mathis So 10-2 1.58 Bosqueville
P Dane Lovejoy Sr 5-2 0.26 Lorena
P Lane Willenborg Jr 9-1 2.20 West
Player: Kramer Robertson, Midway
Newcomer: Jaden Redfield, Midway
Coach: Steve Sebesta, Troy
Pos Player Cl. Avg. Notable School
C Mark Martinez Sr .426 13 2B Dawson
1B Preston Macik Fr .386 28 hits West
2B Braden Murphy So .430 28 RBIs Crawford
3B Shane Sibila Sr .375 37 hits Clifton
SS Adam Jimenez Sr .535 39 RBIs Reicher
OF Ross Coskrey Sr .327 24 SB Midway
OF Zach Potts So .370 6 2B Clifton
OF Hunter Jarmon Sr .309 22 RBIs Midway
DH Kyle Whitley Jr .485 3 HR Troy
UT Edward Ibarra Jr .340 18 SB University
Pos Player Cl. W-L ERA School
P Nathan Schleede Sr 9-4 2.10 Troy
P Hunter Vansau Jr 6-3 1.54 Crawford
P Dominic Deleon Sr 8-1 2.48 University
P Zach Gloff Sr 7-4 2.92 Clifton
P Tyler Jaynes Fr 3-5 2.83 Gatesville
P Justin Golden Sr 7-2 3.33 Belton
Honorable mention: Cameron Cooper, Mark Herrington, Ryne Niemi, Chase Sortor, Walker Winders and Chase Cryer, Belton; Will Carpenter, Bosqueville; Jason Prevatt, China Spring; Kyler Kleibrink, Clifton; Lane Rathke, Crawford; Trent Underwood, Dawson; Seth Martin, Gatesville; Grant Linnstaedter, Lorena; Mikeal Parsons and Case Smith, Midway; Tanner James, Robinson; Jack Fisher, Jonah Erbe and Grayson McReynolds, TCA; Jason Guerrero, University; Jake Schwartz, Joe Schwartz and Jakob Shapiro, Vanguard; Griffin Paxton, West; Devin Sessions, Wortham