SHINER - Zach Reese is a big fan of the punch out.
Shiner's Zach Reese punches his opponent during a recent bout. The senior participates in mixed-martial arts while also pitching for the Comanches. Photos courtesy of Harry Reese
Reese has struck out 58 batters in 53 innings to help spark Shiner's run to the Class 1A regional semifinals.
He also earned a first-round technical knockout in his mixed martial arts debut earlier this month.
Reese's focus is squarely on the Comanches' (22-7) best-of-three baseball series against Da'Hanis (25-4), which gets under way Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Converse Judson.
But that doesn't mean the senior won't be back in the gym training for another fight once the season is over.
"The thing I like most about it is it's really competitive," Reese said. "I don't really think of it as a street fight or anything like that. A lot of people look at it as barbaric, like a bar room brawl. I look at it more like the purest form of competition because it's one on one in a fight."
A baseball injury accelerated Reese's entry into the cage.
He was catching in Shiner's regional quarterfinal series against Thrall last season when a bat hit his arm and broke a bone.
As part of his rehab he travelled to Seguin MMA during the summer to work on his conditioning.
Zach Reese celebrates after winning a recent MMA bout.
"I was training pretty hard during the summer," the 6-foot-3, 185-pound Reese said. "I tried to put on some weight and I was able to put on about 30 pounds."
Reese received permission from Shiner coach Daniel Boedeker to continue his MMA training when the baseball season began.
"He works hard," Boedeker said. "Never at practice did he have a bad day. He came and worked hard. A lot of times after practice he'd go work and train there. He'd come back to practice the next day and get after it again. So it's never been an issue."
Boedeker still wanted Reese to catch this season, but also took advantage of his pitching skills.
"We started working with him after he broke his arm," Boedeker said. "We knew he would have a hard time catching. He pitched as a freshman and a little bit as a sophomore, but he was always our primary catcher and he was so valuable back behind the plate that we wanted to keep him back there. We have Austin Esse and Cole Strauss who are options now and that allows Zach to pitch."
Reese has pitched well this season, compiling a 7-1 record and one save with a 1.98 ERA and gives some of the credit to his MMA training.
Senior pitcher Zach Reese delivers a pitch during Game 2 of last weekend's series with Thrall.
"It helps with the mental side more than anything," Reese said. "The physical side it helped because I trained really hard for the fight. Mentally it helped the most."
Reese often left baseball practice and made the hour drive to Seguin for his MMA workout.
"He came in as a 17-year-old kid and we noticed that there was something special there," said King Webb, who trains Reese at MMA Seguin. "He shows up in his baseball uniform. In class he's pretty quiet, but he's all business. He's just one of those guys who is able to do what he wants to do."
Webb had no hesitation putting Reese in the cage after watching his work habits.
"One thing about mixed martial arts is there are so many people training in the sport," Webb said. "There is already somebody bigger and better. I tell them that sometimes you're the hammer and sometimes you're the nail. You've got to take it like a man and Zach is able to do that. He's able to take his whipping and come back and keep coming back. Nothing really fazes him."
Boedeker has recognized the same qualities when Reese is on the field.
"He's really focused this year," Boedeker said. "We're bouncing him around from behind the plate and on the mound and he's handled it really well."
Reese hopes the Comanches do the same against D'Hanis and take another step toward becoming first Shiner team to win a state baseball title since 2004.
"We all have that taste in our mouth of coming that close and losing to Johnson City, which went on to win it all," he said. "I think we took that into this year and we keep it in the back of our heads."
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.