Brian Bauerle has had a myriad of memorable moments in the game of baseball over the years.
Few will stack up to the experience he was able to share with his 2021 version of the Coastal Bend College baseball team.
Bauerle’s boys became the first program in school history to appear at nationals over the final three days of May, ending their season at the NJCAA Division III World Series in Greeneville, Tennessee.
“It was the experience of a lifetime,” the coach said about the trip to the World Series.
“It didn’t even really feel like the World Series to be honest with you; it just felt like another game, but now it’s all settling in today now that we’re home and I can actually sit back and relax and understand the magnitude of what it was to get there.”
Bauerle’s team, after rallying in the latter half of the season to earn its bid to nationals, won its opener at the World Series in extra innings over Oakton before ultimately falling to region foe Tyler and then Niagara County.
Still, Bauerle said, the experience of being there was just unforgettable.
“It never really hit home until we actually got home,” he said. “It’s going to be something I can remember for the rest of my life.
“You remember every group in a different way, but this group is definitely going to be the one that is the most special right now just because of what they accomplished,” he added.
In their debut at the World Series May 29, Bauerle’s boys won 6-5 in 10 innings over Oakton at Pioneer Park.
The Cougars led 5-1 through seven in the contest, but Oakton rallied with three in the eighth and one in the ninth to force extra innings.
In the 10th, Isaiah Aguilar hit a sacrifice fly to right that plated Kane Mendieta for the winning run.
Alec Cruz, who had worked CBC out of a jam in the bottom of the ninth, worked a scoreless 10th to earn the victory on the bump for CBC.
Ryan Davenport recorded four hits, drove in a run and scored once, while Mendieta had three RBIs to go with the game-winning run.
The next day, Tyler handed the Cougars a 6-5 loss.
The Apaches forged a 5-2 lead with three runs in the fourth inning, then added another run in the fifth to go up 6-2.
That would prove to be a critical insurance run with CBC scoring three times in the seventh.
Tyler shut down CBC in the eighth and the ninth to secure the win.
Eric Martinez led the way at the dish, going 3 for 4 with four RBIs and two runs. Three of his four RBIs came thanks to a three-run dinger in the seventh.
Mendieta went 2 for 4 with an RBI.
Preston Allen shouldered the loss, giving up five runs on eight hits and striking out five in 3 2/3 innings.
The loss, Bauerle said, took its toll on the Cougars.
“I think we left it all there that night,” he said. “We knew if we won that game that we had a pretty good chance to be in the national championship game.”
Instead, the Cougars were eliminated the next day in a five-inning loss to Niagara County, 14-4.
The Thunderwolves put up three in the first and never looked back, adding one in the second, two in the third and eight in the fourth inning.
CBC (28-31) scored once in the fourth on an error, then added three in the fifth on a bases-loaded hit batsman, a sacrifice fly and then an RBI double by Mendieta.
That double by Mendieta was one of just two hits for CBC. Pinch hitter Kaiden Beaty had the other with a single.
Jacob Bryant suffered the loss. He lasted just a third of an inning and gave up a three-run home run.
Bauerle said he was disappointed with how it ended, but that it in no way took away from what his team had accomplished.
“We were 13-25 at one time, and the next thing you know, we’re going to the World Series,” he said. “Pretty impressive turnaround.
“They could have packed it in at 13-25, and our season could have been over, but these guys never quit and played with a lot of resilience and kept fighting to the bitter end.”
Being one of the last eight teams standings at the NJCAA World Series will help grow the program “tremendously,” Bauerle said.
It will also help drive this year’s freshmen.
“They know what it takes now,” the coach said. “They’ve been there. They’ve done that. They’ve already had a taste of it, and they definitely want to go back.”
That mission will begin anew during the fall season that is just a few months away.
But first, the coach said, it’s time to enjoy the moment.
“The favorite moment was just seeing the excitement of the kids,” Bauerle said.
“What a hell of a ride. It’s pretty impressive what we did from where we were a month and a half ago.”