BELLMEAD, Texas — As La Vega second baseman Michael Belcher fielded the final ground ball of the Pirates' playoff play-in game against Mexia, he was filled with emotion.
"It was awesome, especally because it came right to me," he said. "It was like nothing I've ever felt before. I ain't ever felt any feeling like that before."
The final out ended La Vega's decades-long playoff drought. The Pirates had not made the playoffs since 1989.
The team celebrated by throwing their hats and gloves in the air and starting a dogpile behind the mound.
"We proved everybody wrong," La Vega shortstop Aiden Valenzuela said. "Everyone kept telling us that was the narrative: La Vega baseball can't do it. So, we came back and we really didn't say much. We just let them see what we did."
La Vega's playoff drought is a bit of an anomaly in a school district filled with star athletes.
The school's football team has won a pair of state titles in the last decade. Its girls basketball team won a state championship in 2014, and the track team won a state title in 2021.
"For some odd reason, we've had more kids come out for football, basketball and track," Head Baseball Coach Scott Blassingame said. "I hope that the success we've had this year and the years leading up to this year can change that mindset."
This spring, only 17 students joined the baseball team, meaning the Pirates did not even have enough players to form a junior varsity team.
"It brings you closer to your team, because they look around and realize this is all we've got," Blassingame said. "We have to find a way to get things done. We have to become a tight knit group."
But what they lacked in numbers, they made up for in a collective desire to prove the doubters wrong and end the historic drought.
"I would meet with these kids every year and tell them this could be the year we end the narrative and end the talk," Blassingame said. "We could be the team who ends the streak."
While some of the players played Little League and Select baseball growing up, several had little-to-no baseball experience when they joined the team as freshmen. Blassingame said that put them at a stark disadvantage compared to other schools in their district.
"We're not the most talented team in the district or in the area, but I'd be surprised if I found another group around here that works as hard as my guys," Blassingame said.
La Vega will play a best-of-three series against Rusk in the Bi-District round of the playoffs starting Friday afternoon at 4 p.m.