Few programs have been as consistent in recent years as Robinson.
Since last missing the playoffs in 2005, the Rockets have reached the state tournament twice, including a berth in the 2011 Class 3A championship game, and they’ve been past the bi-district round of the playoffs every year but one.
To keep those kinds of results up, a program has to have some special players and people come through.
In Robinson coach Bryan Kent’s mind, none have exemplified both better than Zac Law. The Rockets’ four-year starting centerfielder mixes a wealth of tools on the field with a humility not often found in a highly talented young man.
“From a coaching standpoint, he’s a dream kid to coach,” Kent said. “He’s coachable, he’ll listen and will try to do whatever you ask him to do. He’s a fantastic teammate. He understands that he has some special abilities, and he uses that to be a good teammate, encourage others and be extremely humble. Sometimes that’s what a good teammate has to do, is be humble and not rely on himself as much. He has been a dream for our program.”
Law had a special career for the Rockets, but his senior year was his best.
He hit .495 with 15 doubles, seven home runs and 40 RBIs, and he used his legs to steal 29 bases and score 54 runs.
Those numbers earned him the District 17-3A MVP award, and he’s also the Super Centex Player of the Year.
“I was shocked. Coach Kent texted me, and he’s like, ‘What do you think about Super Centex Player of the Year?’ ” Law said. “I said, ‘No way.’ I would never have thought of that, but it’s pretty awesome thinking I got chosen to be the Player of the Year.”
The Rockets continued their successful run with a 17-3A championship, and they reached the regional quarterfinals before bowing out to eventual state champion College Station.
Law had hoped his high school journey would end in Austin, just as the first two seasons of his high school career had. But he still considered it a special season, because he continued to build relationships with teammates, Kent and his outfield coach Cullen Zellers.
“My teammates and the coaches, they really helped me a lot,” Law said. “The chemistry with the team (was great). It was just really fun being around them. They’re like my brothers, so it’s like being around family. You’re going to have your ups and downs, but it was an awesome year.”
Law’s on-field exploits got the attention of college and professional scouts. He signed to play for Dallas Baptist, but was also drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 23rd round earlier this month.
When the Dallas Baptist coach called Kent to ask about his star player, Kent said that if his own son turns out to be anything like Law, then he’d be happy.
“I try to be the best person I can possibly be,” Law said. “By showing an example to Coach Kent or whoever means the world to me. I just want to be the best possible person I can be around anybody, so it’s an honor for him to say that.”
That kind of character off the field will give a coach peace of mind, knowing he doesn’t have anything to worry about.
Law provided the same kind of relief on the field, unless it was for the opposing dugout.
The Rockets’ leadoff man had the power to hit for extra bases, but he could turn a single or walk into an extra-base situation by swiping second.
If Law has a flaw on the field, it’s too much exuberance for the game at times.
“I would say I’m super aggressive,” Law said. “I love the game of baseball. It’s obviously my favorite sport. Sometimes I’m overly aggressive, and I do things that probably make my coaches mad, either on the base paths or if it’s the first pitch of the game and I’m hacking at it. Sometimes my coaches have to reel me in a little bit.”
As productive as Law was as a high school player, his best days in baseball might be ahead of him.
He has yet to decide what he wants to do, but he’s in a “win-win situation,” Kent said.
“I’m so excited,” Law said. “This is a dream of mine, being able to play college baseball or even pro baseball, which is my ultimate goal. I’m extremely blessed. I’ve had my family and my teammates, my coaches, some friends and I’ve had them to back me up throughout my whole baseball career. I’ve been lucky to have them. I’m really excited about playing on the next level.”
Coach of the year: Chris Sexton, Dawson
Chris Sexton just couldn’t win.
It actually got so bad that the Dawson coach’s team made fun of him for his ineptitude.
Luckily for Sexton, however, those defeats weren’t on the field. They were in coin tosses to decide whether his team would play one-game or best-of-three playoffs.
Sexton always wanted the series. The coin always said otherwise, but it didn’t matter.
The Bulldogs ripped through three straight one-game playoffs to reach the state tournament for the first time ever, shaking off a horrific start to the season. That turnaround has made Sexton the choice as the Super Centex Coach of the Year.
“I finally won one against Trenton, and it was for home and visitor,” Sexton said. “I didn’t even care if we were home or visitor. I just wanted a series. The guys kept giving me a hard time, but I told them I’d rather lose coin tosses and then win the baseball game.”
Early in the year, it wasn’t a certainty the Bulldogs would win many games.
They managed a total of one hit in their first two games, losses to Centerville and Bremond by a combined 20-0.
But a win against Riesel to avenge an early loss to the Indians got Dawson rolling, and it never really looked back.
The Bulldogs did get a best-of-three series to start the playoffs with Dodd City – there was no coin flip necessary since the coaches agreed on a series – and swept it. That was followed by one-game wins over Muenster (11-4) , Gorman (7-0) and Trenton (3-0) to reach state.
“That last guy (for Trenton) hits a rocket to second base,” Sexton said. “I stood up and grabbed my assistant’s shoulder. I don’t know how hard I squeezed his shoulder, but I said we’re going to state. It was an amazing feeling, and I know it was for these guys, especially the seniors. To work so hard and have so much doubt early in the year, and then get that last out to send us to the state tournament … they had achieved something they had wanted to achieve since they were little.”
The Bulldogs’ magic ran out in Round Rock in a loss to eventual champion Douglass, but it was a run nobody on that team will ever forget.
Newcomer: Brett Cain, China Spring
Even with the veteran team China Spring fielded in 2013, coach Shane Keeton thinks a then eighth-grader could have helped.
That was Brett Cain, and he justified that belief as a freshman.
Cain hit .463 and showed unusual power for a player his age with four home runs and 15 doubles among his 40 hits.
“Brett’s bat is what he brings to the table,” Keeton said. “We lost a bunch of bats the year before, and I knew he could hit. I watched him in the summertime the last three years. I didn’t know if he was quite ready, but by the time we got out of our first tournament, I knew he was one of the top two batters on the team.”
Keeton moved Cain to the leadoff spot to take advantage of the fact that he was getting on base “every single at-bat,” but he eventually settled into the 3-hole and showed the kind of potential his coach knew he had.
“There’s a little different sound to the bat when he hits the ball,” Keeton said. “He’s a tough out, and he understands situations. His dad was a baseball coach, and he has a great mental approach.”
Keeton put Cain in the outfield this season, but sees his future as an infielder. Cain also pitched three games for China Spring and ended up with a 3-0 record.
But it’s at the plate where he did most of his damage.
“If his bat continues like it is, I don’t know if anybody in Central Texas can hit with him,” Keeton said. “He’s a hitter, and he works at it. Any at-bat, he could (hit a home run).”
2014 SUPER CENTEX BASEBALL TEAM
|C||Kyle Whitley||Sr.||.441||16 2Bs||Troy|
|1B||Tanner James||So.||.377||34 RBIs||Robinson|
|2B||Ragan Forrest||Jr.||.478||19 2Bs||Lorena|
|3B||Michael Davila||So.||.414||38 RBIs||Robinson|
|SS||Hunter Vansau||Sr.||.471||34 runs||Crawford|
|DH||CJ Collins||Sr.||.521||5 3Bs||Bosqueville|
|UT||Jared Janczak||Sr.||.358||34 hits||Belton|
|OF||Lane Dotson||So.||.456||28 SBs||Dawson|
|OF||Zac Law||Sr.||.495||7 HRs||Robinson|
|OF||Payne Sullins||Sr.||.495||48 runs||Reicher|
|Player of the year: Zac Law, Robinson|
|Newcomer of the year: Brett Cain, China Spring|
|Coach of the year: Chris Sexton, Dawson|
|C||Brayden Wise||So.||.384||38 hits||Clifton|
|1B||Brandon Cehand||Sr.||.415||16 RBIs||Dawson|
|2B||Chase Cryer||Sr.||.429||37 runs||Belton|
|3B||Thomas Morehouse||Jr.||.429||37 RBIs||Riesel|
|SS||Jared Pool||Jr.||.406||37 RBIs||Midway|
|DH||Dustin Vasek||Sr.||.392||22 RBIs||Midway|
|UT||Blake Bottoms||Sr.||.360||32 runs||China Spring|
|OF||Christopher Kelley||Sr.||.484||49 hits||Groesbeck|
|OF||Braden Murphy||Jr.||.554||16 2Bs||Crawford|
|OF||Shane Stafford||Jr.||.365||8 HRs||Belton|
Joey Hogan, Mark Herrington, Coby Potvin and Walker Winders, Belton; Tucker Johnson, China Spring; Jaren Brooks, Zach Potts, Raymond Sadler and Collin Schasteen, Clifton; Mason Burleson, Dalton Long, Jared Gray and Justin Gray, Dawson; Grant Linnstaedter, Lorena; Troy Allison, Trent Davis, Branden Dietzman, Hunter January and David Valdez, McGregor; Jared Pool, Jordan Hoelscher, Midway; Aaron Carter, Barrett Mattson Jake Ochoa and Colton Rhodes, Reicher; Brooks Embry, Riesel; Jarrayd Maybin, Robinson; Jack Fisher and Zach Ibarra, TCA; Jason Guerrero and Edward Ibarra, University; Taylor Benfer, Gage Hodges and Dylan Matthews, Valley Mills; Hudson Bradley, Douglas Harriman, Preston Hughes, Philip MacLemore, Joe Schwartz and Jakob Shapiro, Vanguard; Griffin Paxton, West
Helped team reach state with .441 mark at plate, 16 doubles
Provided pop to middle of lineup with 15 doubles, 34 RBIs
District’s defensive MVP also added .478 average, 29 runs
Steady performer hit .414 with 38 RBIs, scored 32 times
Combined .471 mark at plate with district’s defensive MVP award
All-around standout had 34 hits, went 8-1 with stellar 0.84 ERA
Punished pitching at .524 clip, also went 7-0 on mound
Defensive anchor for state team also hit .458, stole 28 bases
Player of Year gave team speed, power and defense
All-state honoree after hitting .495 with 53 hits, 48 runs scored
District’s Pitcher of Year was 9-2 with 1.65 ERA, 99 strikeouts
Reliable righty won 12 games, including state semi, fanned 121
Posted perfect 7-0 record to go with 1.07 ERA, 60 strikeouts
District’s defensive MVP went 8-2 with 1.65 ERA, fanned 78
Nearly unhittable with 0.71 ERA, 98 Ks to go with 8-1 record
Ace for state team was district MVP with 9-2 mark, 1.13 ERA
Fr, China Spring
Gave spark to middle of order with .463 average, 15 doubles
Led team to 1st state trip tournament after shaky start