SHINER - There were no fans in the stands and no signs were visible at Green-Dickson Park on Monday.
The only sounds, other than the radio blaring over the press box public address system, were the ping of the bat and the instructions shouted by head coach Daniel Boedeker and assistant Steven Cerny as they hit a steady stream of fly balls and grounders.
The players fielded the ball with business-like precision, before moving to the batting cage where they took their usual number of swings.
Shiner was the only Advocate area team practicing on an overcast June morning, but nothing that transpired suggested anything out of the ordinary.
The Comanches gave every appearance they had been there before, and in fact, most of them had.
Shiner (21-9) will make its second appearance at the state tournament in three years when it takes on Maud (24-2-2) in a Class 1A semifinal game on Wednesday at 2 p.m. at Disch-Falk Field in Austin.
The other semifinal will pit Pineland West Sabine (25-2) against Follett (22-3) on Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Disch-Falk Field. The winners will advance to the championship game set for Thursday at 11 a.m. at Disch-Falk Field.
"These kids have high expectations," Boedeker said. "They put themselves in a position to get there and be successful."
Boedeker was an assistant coach under Cerny on the 2002 team that won the Class 1A state championship. He returned to Shiner as the head coach of this year's team after spending last season as an assistant coach at Gonzales.
Boedeker was welcomed back to Shiner by seven players from the 2002 team, including seniors Marcus Lopez, Garet Pustka and Brady Strauss, and juniors Chris Baer, Jared Boedeker, Chase O'Connor and Scott Shimek.
"It's a different situation, but it's still exciting," Daniel Boedeker said. "This is what every team shoots for."
The Comanches were even more determined to return to the state tournament this season, after failing to qualify for the playoffs last season.
"Missing out on the playoffs wasn't too much fun," Jared Boedeker said. "I think we took things a little for granted. We just didn't have the chemistry we had the year before."
"We may have been a little overconfident," Baer said of last season. "But after experiencing last year, it made us work a little harder this year."
The Comanches struggled on offense last season and made it a priority coming into this season.
"I knew we had to hit the ball and score runs," Daniel Boedeker said. "I knew we had the pitching and we would play good defense. But we had to hit the ball. We did some different things like situational hitting and that really helped us out."
The biggest boost for Shiner was playing a tough non-district schedule and facing outstanding pitching early in the season. The Comanches went up against Weimar's Kenn Kasparek, La Grange's Homer Bailey, who was the seventh player selected overall and the first pick of the Cincinnati Reds in Monday's major league draft, and Hallettsville's Kevin Pekar at the Weimar Tournament.
"I went ahead and scheduled good competition so we could see where we needed to improve," Boedeker said. "We've seen some good pitchers so it's really not a shock to us no matter who's pitching against us now."
Shiner overcame a loss to Falls City and won the District 29-1A championship and has gone 6-1 in the playoffs. The Comanches defeated Charlotte, swept a best-of-three game series against Ben Bolt, beat Burton, and advanced to the state tournament by winning two out of three games in a regional final series against Thorndale.
"I knew we had a lot of talent and a lot of potential," Baer said. "It just took a lot of hard work and determination to get here."