For the first time in the program’s history, the Deer baseball team is state champions. The Deer fended off Southlake Carroll and San Antonio Reagan to earn Texas high school baseball’s highest prize at the state tournament in Round Rock over the weekend. Four Deer players were also named to the all-state tournament team.
After surviving a dogfight for the District title, five elimination games and two state nail-biting state tournament games the Deer are the only team left standing in 6A baseball. The team won its first-ever state championship with a 7-2 victory over San Antonio Reagan Saturday at Dell Diamond in Round Rock.
In the title game, Deer Park got off to a second-inning 2-0 lead when Tyler Lee doubled home Blake Martin and Dylan Pullig. The Deer never looked back.
“With games like this you have to put the ball in play,” said Lee, who went 2-3 with 2 RBI from the eighth spot in the batting order. “Luckily balls got through and it set the tone for the game and we didn’t stop from then on.”
An inning later, a double steal from Chase Keng and Christian Vela led to another run when Martin sacrificed to right field. The play scored Keng to put the Deer up 3-0.
In the top of the fourth, Deer Park broke open the game, when Austin Mitchell’s single brought home Blaine Holden. A batter later All-tournament selection Keng singled home Holden and Conner Berry to put the Deer up 6-0.
“Coach always tells us just to do our jobs and my job in that situation was to score the runners,” Keng said.
The Rattlers crossed home plate in the bottom of the fourth and fifth to cut the lead to 6-2. However, Josiah Ortiz drove home Tyler Stenburg in the seventh to pad the Deer lead 7-2.
State tournament MVP Adrian Gonzalez forced a 1-2-3 seventh inning and when Austin Mitchell caught a fly ball in left field, the Deer celebration ensued with Gonzalez at the bottom of the dogpile.
“I had butterflies in my stomach the entire time,” Gonzalez said of the last inning. “It is not fun being at the bottom of the dogpile but it was still a great feeling.”
“There’s so much baseball tradition here,” said Deer Park Head Coach Chris Rupp. “They have some good teams and some good players, but to bring home the first championship is an unbelievable feeling. This is something that no one expected this bunch to do. They persevered and kept getting better as the season went on.”
The celebration did not end in Round Rock Saturday. Throngs of Deer faithful greeted the bus as it pulled into Jim Kethan Field shortly before 1 a.m. Sunday morning.
The team said it was awestruck to see the raucous crowd great them when they returned to Deer Park.
“It’s great to see the support out here,” said Rupp as he stepped off the team bus. “(These fans) have been to all the games, all the moms and dads, they have been supporting us. It’s meant a lot to us. It provides more motivation for them to bring home the hardware. We were fortunate enough to get that done.”
“This is a dream come true,” said Gonzalez. “It’s so great to see all the fans here. We have them to thank for everything. It’s overwhelming.”
Gonzalez and Keng were joined on the all-tournament team by Deer teammates Blake Martin and Clay Aguilar.