UIL Baseball State Tournament
Dell Diamond, Round Rock
Class 6A semifinals, Friday

Deer Park (33-8-1) vs. Southlake Carroll (32-10-1), 4 p.m.
Reagan (30-8) vs. Round Rock (31-7), 7 p.m.

Championship game: Saturday, 4 p.m., Dell Diamond

As the Reagan Rattlers began preparing for their second trip in four years to the UIL baseball state tournament this week, coach Chans Chapman and his assistants had a simple message for their players.

“We told them to enjoy it and take advantage of the opportunity because we don’t know when we’re coming back,” Chapman said. “We’ve made it twice in four years but it’s been tough. When you get to this point, it’s almost better to be lucky than be good.”

Reagan (30-8) plays Round Rock (31-7) in the Class 6A state semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday at Dell Diamond in Round Rock. Deer Park (33-8-1) meets Southlake Carroll (32-10-1) in the other 6A semifinal at 4 p.m.

The 6A championship game is at 4 p.m. Saturday at Dell Diamond.

“The atmosphere for our game is going to be unbelievable,” Chapman said. “We’ll have a lot of fans there and it’ll be like a home game for Round Rock. For a lot of these kids, it’ll be the biggest crowd they ever play in front of.

“It’s a great experience, especially for a high school baseball player. This is the ultimate. The only thing that could make it better would be that about 6:30, 7 o’clock Saturday evening, they’re hanging gold medals around our necks.”

Reagan, which swept district rival Churchill in the regional finals, has some unfinished business in Round Rock. The Rattlers reached the 5A state final in 2014 but were no match for Flower Mound, falling 10-0. The game was halted in the fifth inning because of the 10-run rule.

The seniors on this year’s team – center fielder Cade Bormet, shortstop Ramon Garza and pitcher Jake Hoggatt – were on the varsity as freshmen in 2014. Bormet, who has signed with Missouri, was a starting left fielder throughout the season.

“It’s an awesome feeling knowing that all the hard work is coming to paying off,” Bormet said. “Going to the state tournament as a freshman was awesome. I was the new guy out there. Now that I’m a senior, I’ll help the new guys there. You’ve just got to slow the game down, take it pitch by pitch, take deep breaths and soak it all in..”

Reagan will not have history on its side when it boards the bus to Round Rock on Friday morning.

Highlands, which took the 4A title in 1968, remains the only San Antonio school that has won a baseball state championship in the University Interscholastic League’s largest classification.

The Owls beat Pasadena 3-1 in the Class 4A final to finish 24-3 in their first season under coach Tom Henslee, who died last August.

Sophomore Richard Guerra had 16 strikeouts and threw a no-hitter in the Owls’ 3-0 victory over Arlington in the state semifinals, and senior lefty Glenn Harris had a one-hitter in the championship game.

That history is not lost on Reagan nearly a half-century later.

“We’re aware of it,” said Chapman, 42. “We’re going to do our best to bring home a championship. All season, we’ve told our players that this thing is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. The baseball season is long, but our kids are still fresh and are still enjoying playing the game.”

Chapman is a nephew of longtime Corpus Christi Calallen baseball coach Steve Chapman, who has led the Wildcats to three state championships and nearly 1,000 victories in 34 seasons. Calallen has advanced to the state tournament 12 times during Chapman’s tenure.

“I grew up going to my uncle’s games,” said Chans Chapman, who played baseball and football at Hallettsville High School. “By the time I was 14, 15 years old, I already knew I wanted to be a coach.”

With a 388-94 career record, two state-tournament appearances and seven district titles, Chapman is well on his way to joining his uncle in the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame someday.

Chapman has built a consistent winner at Reagan with an unwavering commitment to fundamentals. He also has created a culture in which a passion and respect for baseball are cornerstones of the program.

“One of the first things I’d say about our kids is that they play hard,” Chapman said. “We’re a very energetic team. One of the things we tell our kids all the time is ‘Play the game the right way.’ I think there’s a certain way that you’re supposed to play the game and respect the game. If you do that, good things can happen.

“We’re fortunate in that our guys have bought into the fundamentals. I think it’s helped us. I think it’s a big reason why we are where we are. Another characteristic about our team is the chemistry we have. The players like each other. They like being around each other. They’re good friends. They hang around together away from the ballpark.”

Johnson lost in last year’s 6A state final and was only the fourth team from the Alamo City to advance to the title game in the UIL’s largest classification since Highlands won the brass ring 49 years ago. Reagan beat Johnson in the third round of the playoffs this last month before knocking off Churchill in the regional finals.

“In my 13 years at Reagan, we never had played anybody from our district in the playoffs,” Chapman said. “Then this year we end up playing Johnson and Churchill. There was a lot of excitement leading up to the series against Churchill. All those kids grow up playing together. Their parents know each other. It was good for our district.

“The fact that we’re going to the state tournament for the second time in four years and Johnson went last year is a good testament to the quality of baseball in our district. It’s improved every year. We’re proud to represent our district and San Antonio at the tournament.”