SAN ANGELO – Brooks and Brayden are sitting with their mom, Andrea Wagner, in the stands as you read this program waiting for the game to be over so they can sprint onto the field to give the players high fives and their dad a hug.

Will Wagner, on the sidelines coaching a game for the first time as a head coach in front of his wife, two young sons and an Angelo State home crowd, has been looking forward to the moment since accepting the head coaching position last December. And while you may have never met Wagner and may even need someone to point him out to you, his postgame vision also involves you.

“We want everyone to feel like they are part of the Ram family,” Wagner said. “I want all of our players and coaches to be accessible to people after the games. It is really important to me to get the fans involved with the team. We have a great group of guys and want the community to know and support them throughout the year.”

Talk to Wagner after the game about the Angelo State football program and you’ll quickly find out how important family is to the Odessa native. Throughout fall camp he brought the players together by playing dodge ball, going bowling, helping ASU students move into their dorms and hosting a talent show. Last Friday, a day before the Rams erased two 21-point deficits to beat Chadron State College, he had the team buses take the long way from the Rapid City (South Dakota) Regional Airport to Chadron, Neb., so the team could take a site-seeing tour of Mount Rushmore.

“How many programs in the nation do you see going to Mount Rushmore and running all over the place taking pictures of each other and having fun like that,” Angelo State defensive back Alvin Johnson said. “Coach Wagner shows us all the time we are a family and that he cares about us as people. Everything we do, we do as a team.”

Two games into the season, the Rams are 2-0 with wins coming on the road in Gunnison, Colo., and Chadron. Both trips began with Brooks and Brayden handing the players bags of candy, first on campus at 10 p.m. on the Thursday before the Rams beat Western State College of Colorado, and then at 8 a.m. last Friday as the team entered the San Angelo Regional Airport.

“With the amount of hours we put in at work here, it is important to take advantage of every moment we have,” Wagner said. “Whether that is just five minutes before you get on the bus or while we are taking team photos, I think it is important to have my family here. I not only get to see my wife and kids, but hopefully I’m also showing the players the meaning of family and how we are all in this together. My kids love being around the players, too.”

A Class 5A state championship player at Odessa Permian in 1991 and a four-year starter and All-American safety for the Hardin-Simmons Cowboys, Wagner enjoys being detective-like in the film room and a motivator on the field as a football coach. He spent the last 13 years honing his coaching skills as an assistant at perennial NCAA Division II powerhouse Northwest Missouri State, where he helped lead the Bearcats to seven national championship games – winning the Division II title in 1998, 1999 and 2009. Mel Tjeerdsma, who retired as the Northwest Missouri head coach in January, praised Wagner as being “creative” and “a very classy individual” who was an “integral part” of the Bearcats’ success in the last 13 seasons. Tjeerdsma retired from coaching with a 242–82–4 record at Austin College and Northwest Missouri.

“I would love to be the one that builds that kind of tradition here at Angelo State University,” Wagner said. “I feel that we have got a lot of support and encouragement from the school and community since the day we got here. Myself, all of our coaches and every player we bring in here to be a part of our football program are going to work every day to make ASU a winning team on the field and our players great citizens off it.”

Wagner is challenging his players to make the right decisions everyday when they go to class and every night they go home. He is teaching them techniques on the field, strategies in the film room and loyalty and respect through his actions.

“He is always stressing to us to stay together and trust the guy next to you on the field,” ASU linebacker Joseph Schumpert said, while wearing a Ram Fam hat on the plane ride back from Nebraska. “The team chemistry is incredible right now because of him and the other coaches here. There’s no defense or offense divide or anything else with this team. We are all in this together.”

Pay attention today to the little things as the Rams take on the University of Central Oklahoma. Observe the team going through warm-up drills. See and hear them charge onto the field. Monitor Wagner and his coaching staff interacting with the team throughout the game. Join them in a show of support and unity on the turf after the game.

“Our team is focused and has some momentum coming into this game,” Wagner said. “We came back from a big deficit last week and are in the process of building confidence and becoming a good football team. I’m excited to be able to take this team onto the field and play in front of our fans in San Angelo for the first time.”

Kevona Bryant’s attitude got her kicked off the Edna basketball team as a  junior.

“I was immature and wasn’t helping the team,” said Bryant of not being  allowed to play because of conduct detrimental to the team. “It was horrible not  playing. I knew it was time for me to grow up.”

Adjusting that attitude helped earn her the District 28-3A most valuable  player award and led the Cowgirls to the Region IV-3A tournament this year.

“I had heard about some of the trouble she had in the past when I first got  here,” said Edna’s first-year head coach Brett Nidey of Bryant. “People asked me  all summer if I thought I could handle her or if I was going to let her play. I  told them everyone was going to get a shot, and then she went out and made the  most of it.”

Bryant was named the team captain before the start of the season and held  that title until the Cowgirls were eliminated from the playoffs in a loss to  Corpus Christi West Oso at the regional tournament.

“She was a very good leader for this team,” Nidey said. “She led by example  and was a positive person the whole season. There was no negativity from her. I  never had any problems with her at all.”

Bryant led Edna to a 29-4 record as a senior, including playoff wins over  Luling, Giddings and Stafford. She averaged 17.1 points, 13.6 rebounds and 4.7  steals per game.

“I just went out there trying to win it all this year,” said Bryant, who  played the final three games of the season with a broken nose after getting hurt  in the bi-district against Luling. “I played with a good attitude and  confidence. To go that far in the playoffs was great. I just tried to do  everything I could for the team.”

Bryant’s best regular season game came in a district win over Gonzales. She  scored 39 points and grabbed 27 rebounds in that game.

“All of that was her getting rebounds and giving it everything she had,”  Nidey said of the performance. “We weren’t doing anything special to get her the  ball or go away from our offense. It was a perfect example of how special of a  player she is. When it was Kevona-time, she always stepped up for us.”

Bryant didn’t start playing organized basketball until junior high, but it  hasn’t seemed to hurt her game.

“I watched the boys around town play, and I dribbled every once in a while,  but I never played until seventh grade,” Bryant said. “I picked it up right away  and knew it was the sport for me.”

Bryant visited McLennan Community College in Waco last week and is  considering playing basketball there.

She said there are still improvements that can be made to her game, but she  is confident about her future on the basketball court.

“I knew what I had to do on the court and I did that,” she said. “I’m going  to keep doing it.”

Mike Jinks walked through the hallway towards the stage greeting everyone like he had just been elected to political office.

His walk was confident, his eyes engaging and his personality energetic. There were probably people who didn’t know who Jinks was last year waiting along the walls of the Junell Center’s first floor for their opportunity. They wanted to shake his hand, tell him congratulations and try to make an impression that he would remember. Coaches want to know other coaches, but just as important, they want successful coaches to know them.

Jinks, an Angelo State University graduate and former football player, returned to San Angelo last week as a featured speaker at the Angelo Football Clinic.
He returned as the head coach of Cibilo Steele.
He returned a state champion.
He returned proud.
He returned humble.

“The main thing that I want to say to them is thank you,” he said moments before delivering a lecture called “Zone Runs / Play Action Pass Off It” at the clinic which brought in coaches from the high school, college and professional ranks. “There are coaches that are here that helped put me on the right path, others that took an interest in me and gave me opportunities and others that I have watched from a distance and drew inspiration. I’m honored, more than anything, to be asked to give our presentation.”

In only its fifth year of varsity football, all with Jinks as head coach, Cibolo Steele claimed the Class 5A, Division II championship last season with a 24-21 win over Denton Guyer at Cowboys Stadium. The Knights finished the season with a 14-2 record and amassed 4,656 yards rushing and 1,503 passing in those games. Malcolm Brown, the heralded running back who will play for the Texas Longhorns this fall, led the team with 2,596 yards rushing and 30 touchdowns. Marquis Anderson, who is headed to Oklahoma to play for the Sooners, anchored Steele’s defense which won its final 13 games of the season. The Knights, whose school is located in the northern section of the San Antonio metro near the Randolph Air Force Base, are 45-16 under Jinks.

“We are really trying to build our program around the idea of not being afraid to take a chance,” Jinks said. “That’s something I learned while I was atAngeloState. We want a foundation of not being afraid to fail. We want our players to believe in themselves.”

From player to coach

Jinks, 38, enrolled at Angelo State University after a successful high school playing career at state powerhouse, Converse Judson. Jinks led the Rockets to a 37-4-1 record as the team’s quarterback in three seasons, including a state championship appearance in 1988. Judson lost the game to Dallas Carter, but was named state champions after the UIL ruled Carter used an ineligible player. Jinks has told the San Antonio Express-News that Carter clearly won the game on the field and he doesn’t claim the championship.

Angelo State head coach Jerry Vandergriff and assistant Mike Martin saw the potential in Jinks and recruited him to play for the Rams in 1990. As a starter his junior and senior seasons at ASU, Jinks led his team to a 13-8 record and to the playoffs in 1994. The Rams went 4-1 in Lone Star Conference play his senior season. He threw for 1,897 yards and 15 touchdowns his senior season after throwing for 13 touchdowns and 1,320 yards as a junior.

“The college years were incredible for me and have shaped my life,” Jinks said. “I learned so much about the game and built great friendships at Angelo State that are still very important parts to my life.”

A job offer wasn’t waiting for Jinks after graduation, but as the San Angelo Standard-Times and Express-News have recounted, an encounter with then-Killeen Ellison coach Robert Walker turned into a job offer. Jinks, who was working as a waiter in 1995, served the Ellison coaches drinks in San Angelo while they were in town for the coaches clinic. They struck up a conversation about who Jinks was as a person and where he wanted his career to go. Walker, now at San Antonio East Central, made some calls and offered Jinks a job.

Jinks took advantage of the opportunity and now has a resume with assistant coaching jobs at Ellison, Judson, Austin Crockett and San Antonio Lee on it. He accepted his first head coaching position at Burbank which was 0-50 before he took the job. One season at Burbank, which brought the school three victories, set up the challenge of starting Steele’s football program.

Sixteen years after getting his first coaching job, Jinks stood on stage at theJunellCenter teaching football to coaches and showing clips from the state championship.

Cultural impact

Jinks played his way to a successful high school and college career at the quarterback position. He started his coaching career as a quarterbacks coach and worked hard everyday to become one of the rising stars in Texas high school coaching. As David Flores, a former Express-News columnist who has covered Jinks since high school wrote about for KENS5.com, Jinks has become a role model for black athletes and coaches with his accomplishments. The state championship Jinks led Steele to was the first for a black head coach in the San Antonio area.

“It is significant because it’s never happened before, but I’ve had a lot of help from people,” Jinks toldFlores. “If what we’ve done this season can inspire more black kids to go into education and work as coaches and teachers, it makes me feel that much better about the whole experience.”

Coaching philosophy

Jinks has always been a team player. He knows his career at AngeloStatewouldn’t have been as successful or fulfilling without his teammates. He always acknowledges the coaches who helped him start his career and who have continued to give him advice and encouragement. Even last Wednesday during his speech at the Angelo Coaches Clinic, Jinks stepped aside and let an assistant coach from Steele take over part of the presentation. The clinic’s program simply had Jinks as the speaker, but Jinks made the decision to put his coach in the spotlight.

“Coaching isn’t just about X’s and O’s,” Jinks said. “There are a lot of coaches and people who get hung up on the execution part of the game and neglect how they treat their players and other coaches. This is a relationship-driven profession where you are successful when you treat people the right way.”

Jinks jokes that people want to shake his hand a lot more and talk longer now that he has won a state championship. He knows his life will probably never be the same after winning a Texas high school championship and that he’ll always be introduced as a state title winner from now on. That doesn’t mean he can’t be that same energetic, engaging and humble person he was while attending school and playing football at Angelo State.

“I don’t think winning the championship has changed who I am as a person,” he said. “What is it going to take to stay on the same level in 2011 has been the only thing on my mind ever since we won the state championship game. We’re not going to let any of our success go to our heads.”

 

One completion on three pass attempts probably went largely unnoticed that 1978 afternoon in Huntsville. The pass, thrown by a freshman from Fredericksburg who was in the game only because Angelo State head coach Jim Hess felt the outcome was determined, went for 10 yards in a 44-17 Rams’ win over Sam Houston State. The young quarterback would also see limited time against Oregon College and Western Colorado as the Rams advanced through the playoffs on their way to claiming the NAIA National Championship.

Ever since that first season, Doug Kuhlmann’s name has been recognized and connected with football in San Angelo and West Texas. Kuhlmann, who went on to throw for 4,443 yards and lead his team to a 25-8-1 record as a starter, has stayed involved with football as a coach after graduating from Angelo State in 1981 with a degree in Physical Education.

“I enjoyed everything about my time at Angelo State,” said Kuhlmann, who was named the athletic director and head football coach at San Angelo Lake View in late March. “My college coaches always had high expectations for us and we all felt so highly of them that we worked to achieve our goals. We were all treated so great as students and athletes at Angelo State that I changed my mind on what I wanted to do after college and decided I wanted to go into coaching.”

Kuhlmann said he originally thought about pursuing a career with the United States Secret Service because of a childhood friend’s father who was an agent assigned to help protect Lady Bird Johnson who lived near his hometown. He credits Hess and Jerry Vandergriff for guiding him to a fulfilling coaching career that has produced an 89-74-1 record as a head coach. His career includes coaching positions at Lake View, Grape Creek, Eldorado, Wall and Vanderbilt Industrial. He started his high school coaching career as an assistant at Lake View under current San Angelo school district athletic director Jim Slaughter.

“We wanted someone that we had confidence in and Doug fit all those bills,” Slaughter told the San Angelo Standard-Times. “He will bring a winning attitude – he is used to winning. He has been with some tough programs where he has had to fight. When you’ve done that it makes you an even better coach. It puts you in a better position to prepare the next team and on down the line.”

Kuhlmann is replacing Sterlin Gilbert, another former Angelo State quarterback, who took the offensive coordinator job at Temple. He quickly got started in his new position at Lake View in April by familiarizing himself with his new players and has continued working with them with conditioning programs that have been implemented since the end of the school year. The Chiefs went 1-9 last season in the challenging District 8-4A which includes Stephenville, Killeen, Waco High, Waco Midway and Waco University.

“I’m very excited to be back in San Angelo and for the opportunity we have here at Lake View,” Kuhlmann said. “West Texas and San Angelo has been like home since I graduated high school. We’re going to do our best to get this going in the right direction.”

Kuhlmann, who earned his Master’s degree in Physical Education and Administration from Stephen F. Austin State before coming back to San Angelo in 1983, is coming off a 9-4 season at Industrial that ended in the quarterfinals. In six seasons at the South Texas school just north of Victoria, Kuhlmann’s Cobras advanced to the playoffs five times and accumulated a 48-24 record. While at Industrial, he helped maintain and develop a winning culture throughout the athletic programs at the Class 2A school. He also stresses that building strong character of young men and women is what makes a great coach and teacher.

“There’s so much of a bigger picture to being a coach than most people see or imagine,” he said. “We want to make a positive impact that will be beneficial to them later in life. Hearing stories of people I’ve coached in the past who are doing great things is even better than winning games for me.”

The decision to coach has provided a positive influence for countless students who have played for or been in a classroom with Kuhlmann.

“Doug did a great job for us,” Industrial school district superintendent Tony Williams told in The Victoria Advocate newspaper after Kuhlmann accepted the Lake View position. “Even if he never won a game, he was a great human being and a great role model for our kids.”

Kuhlmann said he’s excited to be coaching at Lake View and to be back in San Angelo. He and his wife, D’Anna (also a graduate of Angelo State), have recently moved back into the home they own and have been renting out since their last tenure in West Texas. Their youngest daughter, Leah, is a junior at Angelo State where she is an Early Childhood education major. Leah’s sister, Kate, currently works in Washington, D.C. after graduating from Texas Tech.

Though he hasn’t been able to attend an Angelo State football game since 2004, Kuhlmann said he’s looking forward to watching games at San Angelo Stadium this fall when he’s not busy on Saturday’s watching film to get his Lake View Chiefs ready for their next game.

“I liked to keep up with all of the sports at ASU even when I was in South Texas,” he said. “I was able to keep up with what was going on here. It has always been a special place for me and my family.

“I’ve been very impressed by what I’ve seen from the new football coaches at ASU. They’ve come out and introduced themselves to me and I heard they came out to watch our spring game. To make the time to come over here to show an interest in our program goes a long way with me. It shows that the University has coaches that really care about the community.”

Kuhlmann will also be one of a large group of former ASU players returning to San Angelo for this week’s Angelo Football Clinic at the Junell Center. Kuhlmann and the Lake View Chiefs open their regular season on Sept. 2 at Ft. Stockton and play their home opener on Sept. 9 against Amarillo Caprock.

With music becoming annoying after the first three hours of my road trip, I dialed around the stations trying to find anything besides the new Red Hot Chili Peppers’ song. Nothing came across that caught my ear, so the final resting place stopped at the Dan Patrick radio show on ESPN.

Patrick doubles as a television anchor, and is usually pretty entertaining. He hardly ever talks about anything serious, so our personalities kind of mesh. He doesn’t think that sports are the most important thing in life, yet his career is based around them. I’m trying to fashion myself in the same mold, so I try to find time to hear his opinions as much as possible.

So there we were, stuck together for the next 2.5 hours with nothing to do besides laugh at the latest blunder in the sporting world.

On this occasion that I spent listening to him, and on this occasion that you are reading me, it turned a little serious. The subject was race and the language we use in addressing it. The conversation was a reaction to the statements of Sen. Joe Biden saying that Barack Obama was “articulate.” The president followed suit, and then the national media jumped on top of them.

I guess I was being naïve, but calling Obama “articulate” seemed like a compliment at first. The media and other voices saw it differently. They saw it as Biden and George W. Bush saying that Obama was different from other black people. They said that the comment of Obama being “clean” and “articulate” was insulting.

After some thought, I started to see where they where coming from. The point is, when was the last time you heard someone call a white adult articulate? They are usually called “smart” or “bright,” but we hardly ever hear “articulate” to describe them. After all, can’t we always understand what a white adult is saying? It makes perfect sense to understand why people were offended.

A lot of times, we let these little words slip into the sports’ lexicon.

As was discussed on the radio show, white athletes are looked at differently from black athletes. It’s almost a reversal of what goes on in the rest of society. While a black business man is said to have to work harder to achieve success in his field, it is said to be the same for a white athlete in the sports world. The general population sees white professional athletes as over-achievers, while black athletes are simply athletic.

The white athlete spent hours after practice working on his game, while the black athlete was born with the ability to run a 4.4 forty, or dunk a basketball. These are stereotypes, but ones that people carry with them every day.

When we think of John Stockton, a white man, playing for the Utah Jazz, he is described as a scrappy player who went above his potential to become one of the greatest guards in the National Basketball Association’s history. When we think of Michael Jordan, a black man, people see a guard who has been given a gift. Jordan probably put in the same amount of time as Stockton to develop his game, but because of his skin color, we put him into the category “athlete.” Stockton had great athletic ability, too, but there were probably few occasions where someone described him as athletic. He was “savvy” and a “student of the game.” To some people, Jordan was simply born with the talent.

That’s where the lexicon can be disrespectful. It’s an unintentional use of words for most, but should be something that we consider when describing people.

Ricky Henderson, a black man, set the stolen base record because he was fast, with blazing speed. Craig Biggio, who is a white base stealer, is simply crafty or deceptively quick. They say that Biggio can “sure read those pitchers,” while Henderson could overcompensate for slow jumps. He had the “blazing speed,” remember.

We can also see this at the high school level here in our area on the nights that the Duncan Demons’ basketball team goes up against predominately black players. It’s an unspoken thought, but when you look at Duncan warming up with white players, and the other team warming up with black players, you almost automatically think that Duncan will lose.

It’s also unspoken that Duncan will have to outsmart them in order to win the game. Because they are white players, we see them as being not as athletic.

It’s a mindset that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but one that will hopefully drift away in the future.

Like a road trip, we may not notice the little things that are happening around us at all times, and it may take awhile to get to the desired destination. But just like when we are driving, we should always be aware of what is going on.

Teenagers frantically maneuver their way to the edge of the stage.  Lights dim to a low level and a connection from a pick striking a guitar sends out deafening wails through speakers.  Smiles grace the audience while the band explodes into its first song of the night.

Welcome to a Brunzwick concert.  Hold on to your stereotypes and embrace the creativity and energy that four punk rock kids from the Duncan area are about to deliver.

Composed of two college freshmen and two high school seniors, Brunzwick is a band that has made its impression on the Duncan teenage landscape.  Self-described as punks, Brunzwick mixes powerful chords on the guitar and bass with the backdrop of drums.  Lyrics about growing up, stories of having fun and downfalls of life are poured out to an audience who is eating up every word.

Not your stereotypical Oklahoma band, but a part of the Duncan culture nonetheless.

Putting names to the band are college freshmen Andrew Smith and Derek Murphree, who graduated from Duncan High in 2005.  Murphree smashes the drums and is also a student at Cameron University.  Smith screams lyrics into the microphone and attends the University of Central Oklahoma.  Lead singer Blake Brown, who started the group with Smith, is a senior at Duncan High, and guitarist Cody McAlister is a senior at Velma-Alma.

For Brown, the music is the most important part of being in the band.  He readily admits that the girls aren’t a bad bonus tied to the band, but still emphasizes the importance of the songs.  As he completes his senior year at Duncan High, Brown said that he has a lot to credit the band for during his time at school.

“The best thing about being in a band while in high school would probably be the fact that being in Brunzwick has helped me gain a bunch more friends that I probably would have never met otherwise,” Brown said. “Having all of these friends and people in my life definitely makes high school a better experience.”

Brunzwick calls its music pop-punk, but isn’t willing to limit its capabilities with that label.  The term punk has a negative connotation for some, but has changed since the days of safety pins and anarchy.  Today’s punk is a wide-ranging form of expression.  It is a fast-paced style of music where the lyrics are about society, growing up and anything else that happens in life.

Ask someone where to find good punk rock, and the answer will probably not be Duncan, Oklahoma.  Ask members of Brunzwick, and they’ll tell you they don’t care.  They love the music and have found out that being in a non-punk community doesn’t mean they can’t be part of it.

Get past the messed up hair, funky clothes and the misconception of what punk is and you’ll understand that they are not that different from anybody else; just with a different taste in music and a unique way of expressing themselves.

The band formed nearly two years ago and has been playing shows around Duncan since its inception.  Wherever they can find a stage to jump around on they show up, along with around 200 adoring friends and fans.  The audience consists of junior high kids to adults, and the venues are usually elementary schools and recreation centers.  Not the glamorous locations you think of when picturing rock shows, but the band makes it work.

“It’s fun to go out to a place and play where anyone can watch,” Murphree said. “We just want to have fun. We don’t do it for the paycheck.  We do it for the fun factor.  It’s great to go out and play a show for the kids who want to come out and go crazy. It’s one of those things where we don’t know if it’s going to work out, but we’ve decided to step out there and try different things.”

Parental support has been an important part of the band’s success.  From moms collecting admissions, to dads videotaping shows, the members of Brunzwick are quick to point out that without their families the band wouldn’t be where it is.

“My mom is always behind me 100 percent of the time,” McAlister said. “It doesn’t matter what it is, she has always supported me in everything I have done.  She really likes good music and enjoys coming to our shows to listen to us.”

With the geographical distance between the band members right now, Brunzwick said that it is in a slow period right now in terms of band progress.  With Smith in Edmond, Murphree at Cameron and Brown in Duncan finishing his senior year, it has been a challenge to set schedules.  Add McAlister playing first base for the Velma-Alma baseball team, and time to practice their songs is a hard commodity.  Plans for the future look bright for the band, though.

Brown and McAlister plan to move to Edmond next fall, while Murphree is still undecided on his plans.  With connections to a Nashville recording studio, Brunzwick is expecting to produce its first CD this summer, but will continue to play shows when time allows.

For a group of punks, somehow it has still found ambition to work for goals.  Music is their outlet, having fun- the purpose and succeding in this world is the goal.

Maybe the kids are all right after all.

AUSTIN – Dreams are had and movies made about what Meagan Chumchal actually did.

The Shiner freshman, up to bat in the seventh inning with two runners on and the Lady Comanches trailing 8-6, stepped to the plate, swung at the first pitch offered and drilled it into the left-centerfield trees for a three-run home run to send her team to the Class 1A state tournament with a 9-8 regional final win over Mart on Saturday at Leander ISD’s Vandegrift High School.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Chumchal said. “I knew that she (Mart pitcher Lexxi Davenport) was going to throw it straight down the pipe to me. I just took a good swing at it. It felt like a good hit and I knew the wind was going out so I was hoping it was gone. I still can’t stop shaking.”

The win, coupled with Thursday’s 12-7 victory over the Lady Panthers, sends Shiner to its first state tournament since 2008. It eliminates a Mart team which knocked the Lady Comanches out of the playoffs last season. Shiner will be appearing in its sixth state tournament since 2001 (2011, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2002, 2001). Its senior class, which includes Ashley Shimek who improved her pitching record to 22-0 with the win, were freshmen in 2008 when they claimed the state title with an 11-0 win over Bosqueville.

“It’s insane to go back there,” said Shimek, who survived 14 hits and two walks against a Mart team playing for its season by trying to force a Game 3 of the series. “I really don’t know if I could have pitched another game right after this one. They really took the pressure off of me by scoring runs. I’m so thankful for all of them stepping up.”

Chumchal’s walk-off home run is all she or her family needs to tell anyone about the game, but she also led the team with five RBI on two doubles and the home run. Amber Ramirez, a senior who has signed to run track at Texas A&M-Kingsville, added two hits and two RBI to the Shiner stat sheet while Kristin Schacherl produced three singles.

“It’s been the norm for us lately to respond to any position we are in with different players stepping up,” said Shiner head coach Brandon Siegel, whose team improved to 30-4 with the victory. “They continue to keep battling and believing in themselves no matter where we are in the game or the pressure that is on them. Their work ethic in practice where they demand the best out of themselves at all times is why they keep pulling these games out.”

Mart (26-8) and Shiner, who both chose to wear purple jerseys and white pants, also mirrored each other throughout the game on the scoreboard. The Lady Panthers, who were state semifinalist last year, started the game’s scoring by putting five runs on the board in the fourth inning. Shimek struggled in the heat, allowing three singles to start the inning before Davenport delivered a single to score Mart’s first run. Selina Franklin added a two-RBI double and Raven Summers an RBI single as the Lady Panthers took a 5-0 lead.

Shiner would match its opponent from the greater Waco-area in the home-half of the inning though. Julianna Rankin led off with a double, Jordan Pietsch singled and Chumchal hit a two-run double to score Rankin and Pietsch. Trailing 5-2 with no outs, Stacey Perez singled and would score on a double off the bat of Ramirez. A ground out Ryah Michalec scored Ramirez to take the game back to even at 5-5. Mart added one in the fifth and two in the sixth, but were unable to produce anything in the seventh.

For the series, the Lady Comanches outscored the Lady Panthers 8-0 in the last inning of the two games played. Shiner went quietly in order in the fifth, scored one run on a Ramirez RBI single in the sixth and set up Chumchal’s seventh-inning dramatics by taking advantage of two Mart errors to put Rankin and Pietsch on base to watch the softball fly over the fence and be greeted by screaming teammates at home plate.

Shiner will play the winner of the Region II final between Itasca and Lindsay in a state semifinal on Thursday morning at the University of Texas’ McCombs field.

“It seems like a long time since we were in the state tournament but we’ve all been working hard to get back there,” said Shimek, who was a pinch runner in Shiner’s state championship win back in 2008. “Hopefully we’ll win it all again.”

Mart 000 512 0- 8 14 3 Shiner 000 501 3- 9 14 0 WP: Ashley Shimek (22-0). LP: Lexxi Davenport (21-8). Shiner Highlights: Meagan Chumchal 3-for-4, 5 RBI, game-winning home run; Amber Ramirez 3-for-4, 2 RBI; Stacey Perez 2-for-3, RBI, Ryah Michalec RBI; Shimek 7IP, 5K. Mart Highlights: Selina Franklin 3-for-4, 2 RBI; Davenport 2-for-4, 2 RBI; Jessica Williams 2 RBI. Records: Mart 21-8. Shiner 30-4.