They told themselves all year they were supposed to do this.
Yet, after the final out was recorded and the Tomball Cougars were officially the Texas Class 4A state baseball champions, the emotions were still overwhelming. Pitcher Robert Dugger raised his hands in the air and let out a loud scream, while others rushed to mob him near the pitcher's mound.
Tomball defeated Wichita Falls Rider and Corpus Christi Moody in the state tournament last weekend to bring home Tomball's first championship trophy.
After starting the season on a 22-game winning streak, winning a district title and cruising through the playoffs with just one loss, the season culminated with a trip to Round Rock and the state tournament.
First up the Cougars faced an experienced Wichita Falls Rider team and coach Doug Rush went to his senior leader Nick Banks on the mound.
Starting for just the second time all season, Banks pitched all seven innings, while striking out 10 batters.
It didn't look good at the beginning for Banks, as Rider loaded the bases with just one out. A squeeze play by Rider backfired, as Banks fielded the bunt and tossed it to catcher Casey Smith for a force play, before ending the threat with a strikeout.
Banks then provided himself some offensive support, as he jacked a solo home run over the right field fence to give Tomball an early 1-0 lead.
Rider would fight back in the third inning; however, as they touched Banks for two runs and grabbed the lead.
The Cougars then did what they have done all year – put together the big inning. They plated four runners and grabbed a 5-2 lead.
From there it was a pitcher's duel, as neither team would plate another runner. Banks recorded the final out and Tomball was headed to the title game.
The Cougars faced Corpus Christi Moody in the championship and sent their ace, Robert Dugger, to the mound.
However, Dugger began his night on the base paths in electric fashion.
After the Cougars had taken a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, thanks to an RBI single by Eric Dunbar, Dugger stepped to the plate. He laced a line drive right at the Moody left fielder, who tried to dive and make a play. The ball skipped past the fielder and rolled to the outfield fence. Dugger would race around the bases for an inside-the-park three-run homer, giving himself a 4-0 cushion before throwing a pitch.
Dugger would struggle a bit to open the bottom half of the inning, as he allowed back-to-back singles from Moody hitters. Dugger would stay low in the strike zone with his next pitch, however and induced a ground ball to third baseman Robbie Gillen, who started the inning ending double play.
Dugger would cruise through the middle innings, until Moody scored their only run in the bottom of the sixth.
Dugger headed to the mound in the bottom of the seventh, needing three outs to help the Cougars earn the title.
He started the frame with a walk, but immediately induced two groundouts, leaving one out for all the marbles.
In dramatic fashion Digger struck out the Moody batsman swinging for the final out and prepared for the forthcoming dog pile at the pitcher's mound.
At long last, the Cougars were state champs.