SHINER - There may be no way to simulate playing on an artificial turf field, but Shiner seems to have found the next best thing.
Shiner head coach Daniel Boedeker leads the Comanches into today's Class 1A state tournament semifinal game against Maud at Disch-Falk Field in Austin. Boedeker has won a state championship at Shiner as a player and an assistant coach. photo by Victoria Advocate
Rain hasn't been the only reason Shiner has gone into the gym to practice. The Comanches have found practicing indoors is a good way to simulate the bounces on artificial turf.
"There's really nothing like playing on turf," Shiner coach Daniel Boedeker said. "But we've taken ground balls with an Incredaball in the gym and it gives us an idea what the hops are going to be like."
Shiner (21-9) will play on artificial turf for the first time this season when it takes on Maud (24-2-2) in a Class 1A state tournament semifinal game today at 2 p.m. at Disch- Falk Field in Austin.
Pineland West Sabine (25-2) and Follett (22-3) will meet in the other semifinal game 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.
Shiner is not a complete stranger to artificial turf, as seven of its players were members of the 2002 team that won the Class 1A state championship playing at Disch-Falk Field, home of the University of Texas baseball team.
"The thing I remember is the temperature," senior Garet Pustka said. "It gets hot on the turf. The surface is a lot more bouncy."
"You have to be more aggressive," junior Chris Baer added. "You have to get to the big hops before they get by you."
Shiner is hoping its previous experience at the state tournament will help it handle the pressure of playing in a big stadium before a large crowd.
"It's good to have the experience as far as making decisions," said Boedeker, a member of the Shiner's 1992 Class 2A state championship team and an assistant coach on the 2002 team. "That's a good thing to have when you're in the heat of the game."
Boedeker's most important decision could be whether to start Pustka or junior Scott Shimek on the mound against Maud.
Pustka threw a combined 246 pitches in winning Games 1 and 3 of Shiner's regional final series against Thorndale on Wednesday and Saturday. Shimek pitched Game 2 on Friday.
"I'm going to wait and see how they feel," said Boedeker, who was the winning pitcher in the semifinal game and earned a save in the final at the 1992 state tournament. "We have two good pitchers. You need to have two good pitchers to get this far."
Pustka was the winning pitcher in the 2002 state final, but he has no doubt Shimek can do the job against a Maud team that starts seven seniors and has gone 6-0 in the playoffs.
"You have to pitch just like it's any other game," Pustka said. "You can't get tense. You have to have the same frame of mind and the same motivation."
The Comanches have been motivated to get back to the state tournament after missing the playoffs last season. But Boedeker insists they put no undo pressure on themselves.
"We never really thought that much about the state tournament," Boedeker said. "Our approach has been to look at the week ahead and the game ahead. If you do that, anything can happen."
Boedeker has witnessed some strange turn of events at the state tournament, and has stressed the importance of making the most of every opportunity.
"Everybody puts it on the line at the state tournament," Boedeker said. "You have to play as hard as you can. If you can get momentum on your side, the pressure adds to the other team. If a team gives you something, you have to take advantage."
NOTES: Shiner is going for its fourth state championship. The Comanches also won the 1981 Class 2A state title...Shiner is hitting .315 as a team and has averaged just over eight runs per game...The leading hitters for Shiner are Shimek (.395), Baer (.387), Brady Strauss (.347), Chase O'Connor (.340), Russell Boothe (.337), Boedeker (.321) and Pustka (.301)...Shiner has a team ERA of 2.87...Pustka has a 12-2 record with an 1.89 ERA, and Shimek has a 7-4 record with an 1.91 ERA.