SHINER - Rain forced Game 2 of Thorndale's Class 1A regional semifinal series against D'Hanis to be played at the Shiner Starplex.
Shiner's D.J. Pustka takes a throw at second base during last year's Class 1A regional semifinal series against Thorndale. Shiner and Thorndale meet in the playoffs for the fourth straight season when they begin their regional final series tonight at Burger Center in Austin. photo by Harry Reese for the Advocate
After the Bulldogs won the game to sweep the best-of-three series, Thorndale fans stopping for gas, food or refreshments couldn't help but mingle with Shiner fans.
The interaction only intensified one of the state's hottest baseball rivalries, which continues today when Shiner (27-2) and Thorndale (22-3) square off in Game 1 of their best-of-three regional final series at 7:30 p.m. at Burger Center in Austin. Game 2 is scheduled for Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Burger Center and if necessary, the teams would return to Burger Center for Game 3 on Saturday at 4 p.m.
This will be the fourth straight season for Shiner, ranked No. 1 in the latest Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association poll, and Thorndale, ranked No. 6 in the THSBCA poll, to meet in the postseason.
The Comanches took two out of three games to win the 2004 regional final series before going on to win the state championship. Thorndale turned the tables on Shiner in the 2005 regional semifinals by winning two out of three en route to the state championship.
The Bulldogs swept the Comanches in the regional semifinals last season but saw their bid for a second consecutive state title end in the semifinals at the state tournament.
"I think they knew if they got to this point they'd have us here," Shiner second baseman D.J. Pustka said. "I know one of our goals was to come back and beat Thorndale."
The Comanches expect to face a Thorndale team very similar to the team that scored a total of 23 runs in last year's series. Thorndale head coach Scott Holder left for Cuero but Kelly Kuhl, who was an assistant coach on the 2005 state championship team before leaving last season to become an assistant at Taylor, has returned as head coach.
"They're very similar to last year," Shiner coach Daniel Boedeker said. "They're very capable of the big inning. All it takes is a few mistakes and one or two hits. We have to make them earn it. When we have an opportunity to get them out, we have to do it."
Shiner expects to face pitcher Cirilio Reyes in Game 1. Reyes, who was the starter in Game 1 last season, teamed with his brother, Victor, to no-hit D'Hanis in Game 1 of the regional semifinal series.
"We've worked hard on our approach at the plate," Boedeker said. "We have to be selective with their pitches. We have to limit our strikeouts and put the ball in play, which gives us a chance to be aggressive and force them into mistakes."
Shiner pitcher Kyle Condel did not have much success against Thorndale last season as a reliever in Game 1 or a starter in Game 2.
"I think last year Kyle was trying to be too perfect," Boedeker said. "We've told him not to put pressure on himself. He just needs to go after their hitters, change speeds and be aggressive."
The Comanches' success in the playoffs has been built on the pitching of Condel and Josh Nance combined with solid defense and an opportunistic offense.
"This team has been different than the others we've had because we have more speed," Boedeker said. "We've been able to utilize that. This is also one of our best defensive teams and that's allowed us to get out of jams more than in the past."
The faces have changed for Thorndale and Shiner but the players understand the winner of the series will have a chance to make it three state championships in the past four years.
"They've been the same sound, fundamental team for the last four years," Pustka said. "They can hit the ball and their pitchers will come at us with the curveball. We feel like we're well prepared for the curveball and anything else they throw at us."