AUSTIN - Shiner senior Hannah Nevlud looked down at the sleeve of her uniform, knowing Thursday's state championship victory might have been the last time she'd ever wear it.
Shiner's Bethany Nevlud, left, and Kailey Williams celebrate the Lady Comanches' 13-0 Class 2A state championship game win over Windthorst at Red & Charline McCombs Field in Austin on June 2, 2016.
[ click on any photo to enlarge ]
all photos by Travis Harsch, special to the Advocate
Or maybe, Nevlud thought as she stood with a gold medal around her neck, she could find a way to avoid turning in the golden garment.
"Somebody punch me, and I'll bleed on it," Nevlud said. "If I bleed on it, they can't take it away."
Nevlud and her three fellow seniors left Red and Charline McCombs Field at UT-Austin as back-to-back state champions after a 13-0 win over Windthorst in the UIL Class 2A State Championship.
Tears were shed on those same jerseys in 2012 and 2013, when district rival Weimar beat the Lady Comanches in the regional final and went on to win state both seasons.
"It fueled our fire, man," said Kori Landman, who transferred to Shiner before her sophomore season.
The 2016 senior class - Nevlud, Landman, Cece Darilek and Ally Chumchal - has earned two of the program's six state championships and made four regional final appearances.
"I'd say wow. I tell you what, when you've got seniors that win it all, you're going to miss them - there's no doubt," said Shiner head coach Steven Cerny. "You just hope somebody else can step up. There's not one thing; it's everything they bring to the plate."
The seniors have each led in their own ways, on and off the field. To fans, perhaps it was most evident on the mound, where Darilek set the tone time and time again by shutting down opponents early in the game.
Darilek pitched what she said was her first career perfect game to help Shiner win the title Thursday. She received the championship game MVP award after pitching both the state semifinal and state final.
"Just a lot of growing up," Darilek said of the last four years. "I learned how to place pitches better, looked to learn where the batter was in the box. Just trusting everybody and doing what coach calls."
Shiner's Cece Darilek, left, reacts with teammate Hannah Nevlud, right, after Darilek was named the Class 2A state championship game MVP on Thursday, June 2, 2016. Darilek threw a five-inning perfect game to lead the Lady Comanches in a 13-0 run-rule win against Windthorst.
As much as Darilek wowed her teammates with multitalented pitching and hitting - she also batted 4-for-7 at the state tournament with two doubles and six RBIs - Nevlud and her younger cousin, Bethany Nevlud, kept the team smiling.
"We're both so goofy," Hannah Nevlud said. "We're just a bunch of goofballs loving life."
"Nobody is serious with them," Darilek added.
The "goofballs" combined to go 7-for-13 at the state tournament, Hannah with two doubles and Bethany with a double and a triple.
When they returned to the dugout from less satisfying at-bats, that's where Chumchal's guidance took effect.
"You come in from striking out, and Ally's sitting there ready to shake your hand," Hannah Nevlud said. "She doesn't say much, but Ally will sit there and smile at you and you're just like, 'All right Ally, you're right, it'll be all right.'"
Chumchal, a reserve for the Lady Comanches, was called upon to play third base in last week's regional final against Weimar due to an injury to a teammate.
"I had a few errors, but then I was able to figure out what to do, and then I settled down and I finally started making some plays," Chumchal said. "I just know that I need to get my job done."
That's the way the seniors - and younger players for that matter - have been coached to lead the perennial power that is Shiner softball.
"(Coach Cerny) tells us (that) everything we do, it kind of reflects back on how we're supposed to be as a person and how we're supposed to grow as a person," said first baseman Landman. "I think we've learned to be leaders by looking at him and seeing how well he does it."
Landman is headed to Sam Houston State to compete in the track and field discus throw. Darilek will play for Mary Hardin-Baylor's softball team. Chumchal will attend Texas A&M University, and Nevlud will return to UT-Austin.
If she has to surrender her uniform before then, Nevlud has one provision.
"Whoever gets mine, they better be a goofball like me," Nevlud said.
Shiner players celebrate after the final out of the Class 2A state championship on Thursday, June 2, 2016 in Austin. The Lady Comanches run-ruled Windthorst 13-0 to claim a second straight state championship. Shiner players raise the UIL Class 2A state championship trophy in celebration after defeating Harleton in the UIL Class 2A State Championship game.
Chris Derrett is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or email@example.com