SPRING BRANCH — It’s close to impossible to keep Rob Ruff off the baseball diamond.
The recent Smithson Valley graduate proved that time and again during his career with the Rangers, but there was perhaps no better example than his senior season. After undergoing surgery on his hand around Spring Break, Ruff was told he might miss the remainder of the year.
Just a few weeks later, he returned and provided a game-winning double that led to a crucial district win.
“I had my hamate bone taken out around Spring Break and I think I was supposed to miss the rest of the season, but I battled and I came back our second game against East Central, which was about two or three weeks later,” Ruff said. “I got a two-run double there, which led us to win 2-1 and after that game we propelled and almost won out in our district.
“It was a pretty bumpy ride, but when we started winning we started having some fun.”
Ruff once again displayed his toughness prior to Smithson Valley’s opening-round playoff matchup against Lake Travis when he suffered a broken nose. The senior again displayed his grit by undergoing surgery and getting right back out on the field.
“It was pretty much being mentally tough,” Ruff said. “It’s having to battle adversity and knowing that everybody is coming at you with their best and you have to match up or be better than them. Ultimately, if you’re mentally tough, then you can make it through the game of baseball.”
Following the season, Ruff made his collegiate plans official when he signed a letter of intent to attend and play baseball for St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. Ruff was joined by family members, coaches and friends during a ceremony in Spring Branch.
Ruff said St. Mary’s checked all the boxes he was looking for in a school.
“The recruiting process was pretty slow for my first three years as far as contact with coaches, but it really picked up senior year,” Ruff said. “I got a lot of contacts from the coaches — junior colleges, DIIIs, a couple of DIIs and one DI. I started traveling all over the place and I kind of didn’t want to be that far from home. I knew St. Mary’s was a close place, so I emailed them about myself and they wanted to see me. I visited the campus and I really liked it and all they had to offer.”
As an infielder for the Rangers, Ruff shined as one of the most reliable hitters and defenders. He was selected to the District 26-6A first team this past season after batting .345 with 15 RBIs.
However, Ruff was more concerned about qualifying for the postseason than putting up certain numbers.
“I put the team first and I just really wanted to do something my senior year,” Ruff said. “We could have easily thrown the season away and said, ‘Whatever,’ but Smithson Valley has a tradition and that’s to make the playoffs. I knew we had to do it, so I did what I could to push and motivate our guys to come back from being 0-4 to start and last place in district.
“We just had to compete. That’s what I like to do.”
The Rangers won nine of their final 10 league games and nearly forced a decisive third game against Lake Travis in a bi-district playoff series. In the end, though, the Cavaliers escaped with a 2-1 win to eliminate Smithson Valley.
“The season was full of ups and downs,” Ruff said.
Now it’s time for Ruff to focus on his future. As a Rattler, he will look to help St. Mary’s climb the standings within the NCAA Division II’s Heartland Conference. The Rattlers were 30-20 overall and 10-11 in conference play under longtime head coach Charlie Migl.
“I’m really excited and anxious to see what college baseball is like and what college life is like,” Ruff said. “I’m excited to go just down the road and play baseball for St. Mary’s.”
While enrolled at St. Mary’s, Ruff said he plans to study business.