SHINER - Brandon Siegel had seen enough.
The Shiner Lady Comanches softball coach had watched his team just go through the motions during the first two weeks of the season and he couldn't take it anymore.
The Lady Comanches entered the season with high hopes after returning all 10 starters from last year's team that reached the Class 1A state tournament semifinals. But Siegel knew something had to change in early March after he watched his team get shut out in consecutive losses to Hallettsville and St. Joseph and win only two games during a six-game stretch.
"I think the girls expected to win without really having to work for it," Siegel said. "But they opened their eyes and realized they still had to work to achieve their goal."
Shiner (20-6-1) can get one step closer to its goal of a state title today when it faces D'Hanis (16-8) in a Class 1A regional final playoff game at 7 p.m. at the Converse Judson softball complex. The winner will advance to next week's state tournament in Austin.
After a 4-0 loss to St. Joseph on March 6, the Lady Comanches found themselves with a 6-3-1 record and hardly looking like the team that reached the state tournament a year ago.
"We went so far last year that we thought everything was going to just be handed to us," said sophomore pitcher Heather Haas, who will take a 19-6 record into today's game.
"We assumed we didn't have to work for anything," sophomore outfielder Paige Michalec said.
But the usually taciturn Siegel put that assumption to rest.
"He got pretty upset with us," Michalec said. "He's usually pretty patient with us, but it's not good when he does get ?upset. He wouldn't even talk to us."
But what Siegel did say to his team stuck to the players.
"He told us one thing I'll never forget," Michalec said. "He told us "Don't play not to lose, but play to win.' "
Siegel also informed the Lady Comanches that they would always get the best out of their opponents after making it to the state tournament last season.
"Once they saw they had the bull's-eye on their back and everybody was gunning for them, they realized they had to put their minds to it, make the plays when they had to and execute all the way around," Siegel said.
Shiner responded by winning 14 of its next 17 games. The Lady Comanches are 4-0 in the playoffs and coming off a convincing 19-0 rout of Falls City in the regional semifinals.
"We don't go in thinking any game is easy anymore," senior catcher Maci Schaefer said.
Schaefer is the lone senior on the team and feels the Lady Comanches are primed for another trip to the state tournament.
"That's our biggest motivation," Schaefer said. "Especially as a senior, I want to get back there and win it all. We're definitely peaking, but I think there are still better things to come."
Siegel said the Lady Comanches will have to be on top of their game defensively against D'Hanis. "They like to play a lot of small ball," he said. "They are aggressive on the bases and they have some speed."
NOTES: D'Hanis has averaged almost 17 runs per game in the playoffs. The Cowgirls routed Runge 23-0 in the area playoffs, swept Brackett 17-5 and 19-0 in the regional quarterfinals, and beat Thorndale 10-4 in last week's regional semifinals. ... The other regional finalists in Class 1A are Seymour and Marfa (Region I), Bosqueville and Petrolia (Region II), and Martin's Mill and McLeod (Region III).