SAN ANTONIO — After losing to Austin Westlake in the opener of their best-of-three series in the Class 6A baseball regional quarterfinals last Thursday, the Reagan Rattlers faced the challenge of having to bounce back on the Chaparrals’ home field the next night.
Reagan avoided elimination with a 2-1 victory and then hung on for a 6-5 win Saturday at North East ISD Park to clinch the series.
“I saw a lot of grit and resiliency,” Rattlers coach Chans Chapman said Thursday morning, when asked about the mettle his players demonstrated. “We had a tough loss on Thursday night. It wasn’t that we played bad. It was just that their guy threw pretty good, and we couldn’t get any hits when we needed them.
“I was very proud of the way we responded Friday night. Our season was on the line and they found a way to get it done. Westlake is a real tough place to play. It was a standing-room-only crowd. It was a 2-1 ballgame and my kids just fought. They competed all the way through. They didn’t get rattled. That was probably the biggest deal.”
Reagan led Westlake 6-0 through four innings in Game 3, but the Chaps rallied with one run in the fifth and two each in the sixth and seventh.
“We were in control from the start and then all of a sudden it’s 6-4 in the top of the seventh, and they’ve got runners at second and third with nobody out. We found a way to get out of it. You always look for things that you can learn from and build on. There were a lot of situations last weekend that I think are going to help us going forward, for sure.”
Reagan (33-6) plays Laredo Alexander (26-11) in Game 1 of their best-of-three series in the regional semifinals at 7 p.m. Thursday at Cabaniss Field in Corpus Christi. The entire series will be played at Cabaniss Field.
Game 2 is at 5 p.m. Friday and Game 3, if necessary, would start 30 minutes after Game 2.
The Rattlers eliminated the Bulldogs in the regional semifinals last year, and have met in this round two other times in the past five seasons. Reagan is 2-1 in series against Alexander during that span.
The Rattlers won a three-game series between the teams in 2014, but the Bulldogs swept Reagan in 2015 and reached the state tournament. Alexander, which is in the regional semifinals for the seventh time in nine seasons, is 3-3 in this round during that stretch.
“They’re obviously good because everybody’s good this time of year,” Chapman said. “They’re traditionally good. Their pitching and defense are what ‘s gotten them this far, kind of like us. They’re opportunistic on offense, so to speak.
“They’re not going to hurt themselves, so it’s going to be one of those deals of who can make the least amount of mistakes, and who can drive people in when you get a chance.”
Junior right-hander Travis Sthele (9-1) will start on the mound for the Rattlers in the series opener. Sthele is 2-1 with a 2.63 ERA in the playoffs, and has 29 strikeouts in 18.2 innings.
“His best quality is his competitive fire,” Chapman said of Sthele, who has committed to Texas. “I told somebody yesterday that there are a lot of guys that will tell you they want the ball in the bottom of the seventh inning with the game on the line. Then there are guys who will tell you they that they want the ball in the bottom of the seventh inning with the game on the line – and they actually mean it.
“Travis is one of those guys. Anybody can say that, but deep down, not everybody means it. But this guy means it. He wants it, and his teammates want him with the ball in the bottom of the seventh inning.”
Reagan has advanced to the state tournament three times in the past five seasons and reached the title game in 2017 and 2018. Chapman is 447-111 with the Rattlers and has led the Rattlers to nine district championships in 15 seasons.