West High School's baseball team is headed to the state playoffs next week -- a welcome diversion that gives the small town something to cheer about after the fatal fertilizer plant explosion two weeks ago.
West beat Melissa 11-2 in a warm-up game Friday night.
"The town has put that on the boys. They're like, 'Win for us, win for us, help us out, '" said Tina Paxton, a West High School teacher and the mother of the team's third baseman. "They're not used to the attention. But they're playing for the town and themselves right now."
In Ennis, where Friday night's practice game was played, strangers turned out to support West.
As team members got off their bus, people shouted "Good luck" and held up signs saying "Go West" and "Keep Smiling."
At first, the players weren't sure what to think.
"I'm just totally shocked," outfielder Coy Schier said. "This is totally surprising, and it's great. It's fantastic to see. People come out to support somebody they don't even know."
They try to focus on baseball, but the reminders are constant.
At the beginning of the game, the public address announcer from Ennis spoke of the tragedy.
"We would like to send our heartfelt sympathies to those in West, Texas," he said. "We all know the devastation that happened there a few weeks ago."
Another player, outfielder Holden Sykora, said he is happy to play.
"It was a close-knit community already, but this -- the tragedy that happened -- is definitely bringing people that much closer," he said.
West also made it to the state playoffs last year but lost in the final game.
This year, the town is rallying behind the team like never before.
"We're playing some pretty good baseball, and it's the perfect time to do that," Schier said.