At one point, Darin Ramsey had nearly given up on becoming a high school baseball head coach.
He bounced around numerous Austin-area schools, including Round Rock, Stony Point, Cedar Park and Hendrickson, spending time as both a baseball and a football coach, but always in an assistant’s role. Three years ago, he ended up at Anderson, as — what else — an assistant to Gilbert Prather, the Trojans’ head baseball coach.
When Prather departed for the newly opened Cypress Park High this past off-season, though, Ramsey received his big break.
“I guess things have a way of working themselves out,” he said. “I just happened to land in the right place at the right time.”
Ramsey has not squandered his first opportunity to run a high school baseball program. Far from it. The District 14-6A champions Trojans (19-13-1) have advanced to the third round of the UIL Class 6A playoffs, and on Thursday night they were scheduled to open a best-of-three regional quarterfinal series against Hendrickson (25-7).
The Hawks, the District 13-6A champs, defeated Klein Oak in a three-game area-round series, rallying from an opening-game loss.
To reach the regional quarterfinals, the Trojans defeated Klein in a dramatic three-game area-round series. Each game was decided by a single run, with Anderson winning the decisive game 2-1 on an RBI single by Ben Kurio in the top of the seventh. It was a pivotal moment in Ramsey’s first season, and an emotional victory for everyone involved, including senior right fielder James Baran (.415 average, 26 runs, 14 steals), one of the Trojans’ top hitters.
“When we got that last out, there was a sense of energy and joy that rushed through me,” said Baran, a receiver and kick returner for Anderson’s football team this past fall. “It’s a feeling I haven’t felt in a while because it was an accomplishment that hasn’t been made at Anderson in some time.”
The tautness of the area-round series came as no surprise to Ramsey, who said “it seems like every game’s been tight this year.” He’s not exaggerating: Fourteen of Anderson’s games this season, including four of their six postseason contests, have been decided by two runs or fewer.
“It’s good for us,” Ramsey said. “We don’t panic when we get into those situations. We know we’ve been there before.”
Another story line running through the Trojans’ season has been the dominance of the pitching staff. The Klein series was a showcase for Anderson’s talented starters. All three of them — Joe Deitz, Walker Sigman and Peyton Zachry — threw complete games, and the trio allowed a total of three earned runs over 20 innings.
All three have season ERAs that would make any coach drool. Sigman’s is 0.63, Zachry’s sits at 1.02 and Deitz’s comes in at a whopping 1.78. Twice in the postseason, Sigman has taken the loss in 1-0 games.
“All year, those three guys have kept us in games,” Ramsey said. “As long as we can pitch and play defense, eventually we’ll scratch a run or two out. That’s been our approach.”
Last season, Ramsey called pitches from Anderson’s dugout, but this spring, he handed off those responsibilities to catcher Jake Rugeley and the Trojans hurlers.
“He works well with the pitchers,” Ramsey said of Rugeley, who’s batting .391 this season, “so they call their own games. They know what they’re throwing well that night and what they are comfortable with (throwing.) And they do a good job of studying hitters.”
Managing a pitching staff — and a high school baseball team in general — has been one of the biggest learning curves for Ramsey, who’s 44. In an effort to shape his team into a cohesive unit, he said, he’s preached that the Trojans “don’t have to like each other, but they do have to love each other.”
So far, it’s worked. He’s certainly earned the praise of Baran, who said Ramsey “trusts his players and gives them the freedom to do what is right.”
“He’s a great coach,” Baran added. “All the players love him.”