The final games of the season for the Shiner and Hallettsville softball teams produced dramatically different outcomes.
Shiner players celebrate after defeating Hawley in the UIL Class 2A State Semifinal 5-4 to advance to the state final against Harleton.
[ click on any photo to enlarge ]
photo by Scott Julian, special to the Advocate
The Lady Comanches finished their season with the joy of a UIL Class 2A State Championship, while the Lady Brahmas had to deal with the bitter taste of defeat in the UIL Class 3A State Championship.
And while only one team claimed a state title, it's fair to label both programs' season a success.
It was the 10th state tournament appearance for Shiner, and it's fifth state title.
Hallettsville appeared in only its second state tournament, 2009 being their first appearance.
"It was very memorable to say the least," Lady Brahmas coach Mike Mikeska said. "It had a lot of similarities to ('09). Yet, it was different, too. I thought the team achieved everything they possibly could. They bought into the team concept, they were totally team-oriented . they constantly gave you every ounce that they had."
Hallettsville posted a school record 34 victories, while suffering just four defeats and one tie.
The Lady Brahmas had four players, Camille Grahmann, Kendyl Lange, Kenna Lange and Paiden Pruett, named to the state all-tournament team.
Just one of those players, Pruett, was a senior this past season.
Not to mention the fact that Hallettsville will also welcome back District 28-3A MVP Coco Caraway, who compiled a 27-3 record on the mound as a junior.
But Mikeska is reluctant to pencil the Lady Brahmas in for their third state appearance next year.
"Everybody is going to say, 'Oh, we'll be back.' Well, anybody that coached any knows you have to have some breaks along the way for that to happen," he said. "Do I feel like we have the personnel? Yes, we do. But somebody gets a move in from somewhere, and that can change everything. The way it ended up, we should be very competitive. I'm going to expect to win district and we'll go from there."
Shiner (31-5-1) was dominant for most of the season, but a loss really got the ball rolling for its state-title run.
"I was so impressed with the consistency this team showed day in, day out. Not only in ball games, but in practices as well. Their work ethic was just awesome every day," Lady Comanches coach Steven Cerny said. "I think we had one game where we had Ganado in district where they beat us 3-0 and shut us out. It showed us we better not take anything for granted. From that day on, they never had a bad day."
After that loss, Shiner marched to 13 consecutive victories and outscored its opponents, 138-20, during the streak.
Cerny said he had some concerns after the team lost players at some key spots, such as first and third base, and also at shortstop, from last season.
The Lady Comanches came into the season as a young team, too, with just two seniors on the roster.
But most of those younger players evolved throughout the season.
Freshman Bethany Nevlud was named MVP of the 2A State Championship game. Junior CeCe Darilek, sophomore Lauren Schuette, freshman Kailey Williams, sophomore Kassidy Bishop and Nevlud were also named to the state all-tournament team.
Even with his young team, Cerny saw the potential it had early on.
"We could kind of tell when we went to the San Marcos tournament, how well we were playing that we could do some special things," he said. "But to actually win a state title you have to be awfully lucky, you got to go injury free and we did. You have to get some breaks and we did. It was a magical season when you look back on it."
And with all the talent Shiner has returning next season, 2016 could be just as magical.