WACO — Watching from the wet rafters as Bullard Brook Hill won a state football championship on Dec. 3 were two Guard seniors with mixed emotions.
They were happy for their classmates to finally break through and win it, but they also wanted to be out there celebrating with their teammates.
JB Moss and A.J. Minter were key contributors on the teams that lost consecutive state title games the two years prior, but sat out their senior year of football to focus on baseball, the sport in which both are signed to play for Texas A&M next year.
They watched as the Guard scored a 26-3 win over Austin Regents to claim the TAPPS Div. III crown, though neither regrets the decision to not play.
“That actually was pretty tough,” Minter recalled. “I got a little emotional at the state championship game because I was so happy for my teammates.
“It’s something I don’t regret doing but I had a passion for football. But my real passion is for baseball. I’d do everything I can do get better at baseball.”
Moss said the experience was bittersweet.
“I go through my whole football career, lose two state championship games and then I don’t play (and) they win it,” he said. “It’s a tribute to them, their hard work and those seniors that are in my senior class that just worked their tails off. They deserved that state championship.
“I’m not going to sit here and say watching them win it was as awesome as me probably winning it would be, because it wasn’t. But I’m happy for them. It definitely would even out if we were to get another championship in baseball.”
And Moss and Minter have Brook Hill in perfect position to repeat as baseball champs.
Minter was dominant on the mound Thursday with 15 strikeouts in eight shut-out innings and Moss had a pivotal sacrifice bunt to move over the eventual winning run in a 4-0 extra-inning win over pitcher Zach Heard and The Woodlands Christian Academy in the TAPPS 3A semifinal.
Today the Guard face Amarillo San Jacinto with the state title on the line.
“We’d be devastated if we don’t get it done,” Moss said.
The Moss/Minter combination has been a vital part to Brook Hill’s run of three straight state finals on the diamond. The Guard lost to Waco Reicher in 2010 before beating Hallettsville Sacred Heart last year.
This season Moss has scored nearly two runs per game while also supplying 37 RBIs – third best on the team — despite batting leadoff. He’s also accepted his role as a shortstop after starting on the mound every other game with Minter last year. Moss threw nearly 40 innings last year but has logged just 11 1-3 innings on the mound this year.
“I’m not a Division I pitcher by any means,” said Moss, who will play center field as an Aggie. “I love to pitch and it did bother me at the beginning of the season. Coach (Travis) Chick pulled me over and said with you not at shortstop it leaves a big hole in our defense.
“It took me a minute to get used to it. Once I got over that it’s really easy. The pitching staff’s done a tremendous job.”
That job has been spearheaded by Minter, who sports a 0.75 WHIP with 119 strikeouts on the year.
“Especially with these new bats this year we wanted to attack the zone and let them hit the ball,” said Minter, who credited Chick, a former big-league pitcher, for helping the staff.
While Moss and Minter prepare to play their final high school game, to be played at NCAA Division III school Mary Hardin-Baylor, next year they’ll room together while competing in Southeastern Conference ballparks.
“SEC’s the best baseball in the country,” Minter said. “It definitely will be a challenge.”
Moss said the two feed off each other and will continue to help each other grow into whatever challenges they face next year.
“We’re pretty close on and off the field,” Moss said. “He’s a great kid; he works hard. He probably helps me out more than he realizes, just seeing his work ethic and the way he goes about his business.
“I think we kind of follow after each other. It’s fun playing with him.”
As defending champs, Moss and Minter know the fun of winning a state title. But watching their teammates toss their football helmets in the air in celebration back in December gives them that added incentive.
“Watching in the stands ... it was definitely a special moment,” Minter said.“That’s what motivates me most of all.”