SHINER - Daniel Boedeker has enjoyed a wide array of baseball experiences.
Shiner's Gabe McAfee makes a pitch in a recent scrimmage against Yoakum. McAfee is one of six starters returning for the Comanches this season. photos by Frank Tilley, Victoria Advocate
He pitched a perfect game for Shiner in the regional final, was the winning pitcher in the state tournament semifinal game and capped the Comanches' 1992 Class 2A state championship run by earning a save in the final.
Boedeker went on to enjoy an impressive college career at Sam Houston State before returning to Shiner where he's won state championships as an assistant and head coach.
But Boedeker has never gone through as many emotional swings as he did last season.
Shiner got off to a rocky start before rebounding in time to finish third in District 28-1A and qualify for the playoffs.
The Comanches weathered a University Interscholastic League mandated postseason delay caused by the threat of the swine flu and won single-game playoffs against Burton and Granger to send them into the regional quarterfinals against district champion Flatonia.
Shiner was one out away from winning Game 1 in the best-of-three series before collapsing and suffering its third straight loss to the Bulldogs.
But the Comanches bounced back to capture walk-off wins in a marathon doubleheader that included a rain delay with the decisive runs scoring on passed balls in Games 2 and 3.
Shiner's season came to an end with a 16-14 record a week later after a pair of mistake-filled one-run losses to D'Hanis in the regional semifinals.
"It was up and down and fortunately we peaked at the right time going into the playoffs," said Boedeker, who is beginning his seventh season as Shiner's head coach. "We're hoping this year some of that success will carry over."
Boedeker has been able to use last season as a teaching tool. He was proud of his team's resiliency and tenacity as it continued to improve.
"They know it's never too late," Boedeker said. "They did a good job of practicing to get better each time and that's why the success they saw later in the year paid off for them."
The lesson isn't lost on Shiner's six returning starters, who know exactly where this year's team must improve to go deeper in the playoffs.
"Mainly we need to keep our defense solid," said catcher Drew Stafford. "We'd have a few good games and we'd have a few bad games. Our hitting for the most part is going to be there, especially this year, we have real good batters. But our defense has got to stay solid."
The Comanches will have a deep pitching rotation anchored by returning starters Gabe McAfee and Kyle Patek that will also include Coy Boedeker and Joey Gamez.
"We're hoping our pitching can be consistent," Boedeker said. "We're not going to have anybody that can blow it by you, but we try to teach them from day 1 in the bullpen to hit spots and change speeds and keep us in the ballgame."
Boedeker will get an early idea of where this year's team stands when Shiner opens the season against Hallettsville on Monday at 7 p.m. at Green-Dickson Park.
"We try to stay consistent with what we're doing so the kids know what's expected of them," Boedeker said. "But at the same time we're always looking for new ways to get better.
"If we can find something that somebody else is doing, we try to implement that. I think that sometimes you've got to change and sometimes it's for the better."
The players have changed, but the success has continued for the Comanches, who have won four state titles. Shiner was the Class 2A champion in 1981 and 1992 and the Class 1A champion in 2002 and 2004.
"We always want to maintain the standard," McAfee said. "At the same time, we want to play with the mind set we're not overdoing it."
Shiner began playing its best baseball in the playoffs last season. The Comanches would like to get off to a better start, but know what counts is how they finish.
"Coach B always tells us our one goal is a state championship," Stafford said. "We feel like we came pretty dang close last year. We're going to try and shoot for it again this year."
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate.
Contact him at 361-580-6588, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.