VALLEY MILLS, TX — It's been 14 years since the Valley Mills baseball team has found themselves competing in the state tournament, and this year, they're the only team representing Central Texas on the big stage.
The Eagles have been knocked out in the fourth round the last two years. But this year, Head Coach Shane Keeton said his team wasn't content with just making it to the fifth round. They fought and won in walk-off fashion twice in order to make it to state.
The Eagles' bread and butter is their pitching, and when it comes to batting, they're selfless. If it takes a bunt, they'll bunt.
Coach Keeton and his son, Chase, joined the Eagles three years ago.
Chase is now a senior, and although they're focused on the team as a whole, something they've dreamed of for years, is now within reach.
"I'm living the dream being able to have my son play in the state championship. You know, you look back, I took him to the state tournament when he was a little kid all the time. He'd chase foul balls, and he'd sit there and he say Dad, I wanna play in this game one day, I wanna play in this game," Coach Keeton said.
"It's definitely a blessing. I mean, I don't know any kid who wouldn't want to be in this position that we're all in, especially with their Dad. It special, it's definitely once in a lifetime and I'm just glad I can do it," Chase Keeton, a senior shortstop/pitcher for the Eagles, said.
Senior outfielder and designated hitter Tyler Philipp grew up in the Eagles' dugout. From water boy to starter, Philipp has dreamed of playing in the state tournament.
Born and raised in Valley Mills, he's played in a number of state Little League tournaments, but he said they simply don't compare.
Now, it's his last chance to bring home the hardware and leave a legacy of champions.
"It's pretty surreal to be honest. I mean, just thinking about I was 12, 13 in the dugout watching all them play, just can't wait to be there, play where their playing, and now I'm here and it's my last year. It would mean everything. I love this town and I love baseball more than anything, and to be able to do that would be pretty great," Philipp said.
Valley Mills will play Linden Kildare Wednesday at Dell Diamond Stadium in Round Rock for the state semifinal. First pitch is set for 4 p.m.