TAYLOR, Texas (KXAN) — In the 2021 and 2022 seasons, the Taylor Ducks baseball team reached the second round of the postseason. After their run came to a close last year, head coach Justin Adams had a message for the team.

“Why can’t we be a team to win 30 games?” said Adams. “What’s stopping us from doing that and to [now] clinch our 30th win, a school record last week, it’s incredible.”

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Now as the Ducks are a step away from the Class 4A state tournament, they are set to face the team that knocked them out the previous two seasons in the regional final — China Spring.

“They keep knocking us out, but this year we are a new team,” said Taylor junior Devin Valdez. “We are a different team, and I feel like we have all the confidence and all the fans in the world to get them this go-round.”

As Taylor gets set for the three-game series starting Wednesday, they do so with the memory of a late teammate. Taylor’s Jace Gill passed away in an accident in the eighth grade.

“He was my best friend,” said Taylor senior Jake Jansky. “I’ve known him since I was first born. We were actually neighbors. Every time I step out on the field I’m playing for him just to make him proud. I know he’s watching down on us.”

One of the numbers Gill wore was the No. 2. Nick Treuter now wears it to honor his late friend and teammate. Treuter also catches now just like Gill, still taking notes.

“He would always hustle and he would always catch like five games in a row in tournaments,” said Treuter about Gill. “So that really pushed me to strive to, if I get tired then that will push me.”

The other number Gill wore was No. 8, also now worn in his honor by one of his closest friends Devin Valdez.

“We have always been motivated but after he passed away I was motivated more than ever,” said Valdez. “This team really wants to get this win for him. We are playing like we have a chip on our shoulder and we want to go win this state title for Jace.”

All games of the Taylor-China Spring series will take place at Baylor Ballpark in Waco.