Matt Garza knew he had to buy in when he heard first-year head coach Chad Krempin’s goals at the beginning of the year.
The senior and the rest of the Raiders did just that and saw the seasons come to an end in the third round against Brenham. Rouse finished at the bottom of the district last year after failing to win a game but rebounded to win the district this season.
“I knew we were going to do better than last season, but I didn’t expect us to do as well as we did,” Garza said. “I met every single goal I set for myself. At some point, there was some doubt. Coach always just told us to trust him and when everyone bought in, I knew there was something special going on.”
Rouse ends the year 26-9 and 15-2 in District 19-5A. The most wins the team had in a single season before this year was 14 in 2012, the only other year they made the playoffs.
The Raiders went the full three games in the first two rounds of the playoffs, beating Waller in three games in the opening round and topping Bryan, including a dominant 13-2 win in Game 3, in the second round.
Rouse lost two straight games to Brenham in the regional quarterfinals last week, falling 3-0 on the road Thursday night before dropping a 9-3 game to the Cubs Friday afternoon at home.
The Raiders managed just three hits in the Game 1 loss to Brenham on Thursday. The Cubs scored two runs in the first inning and never looked back and tagged starter Devin Hooper for three runs on nine hits in the game.
Cody Kelch hit a home run in the third inning on Friday to give Rouse a 2-1 lead, but Brenham took advantage of a well-executed sacrifice bunt and an error to score six runs in the fourth inning.
“On the bunt play and if we had another chance, we should’ve probably thrown it to first,” Krempin said. “They scored a bunch of runs after we made a bad decision and an error. Once we let guys get on base, that made it difficult for us.”
Krempin has a wealth of experience with nearly two decades spent in the dugout and went to the state tournament as recently as last season.
There are years when some guys just don’t want to be there, but that wasn’t a problem for this group of players. He said they always came with the right attitude and to see the joy that comes from a deep run was a blast.
“It’s hard to compare teams,” Krempin said. “You always hold a special place for the kids and everyone in a little different. This team was just fun to be around. They just wanted to play and just had a good time playing baseball.”
Garza was nothing but thankful to the coaches and teammates for making his senior season memorable. He said the biggest thing he’ll remember from this year is even when things looked bleak, the team was still there to support each other.
“Our teamwork stands out,” Garza said. “Everyone was doubting us at the beginning of the year. No matter what the score was we got loud and encouraged each other. We set the standards really high, but coach Krempin will get them working hard to beat the standard we set.”