State Championship Preview (PHOTO GALLERY): Keller and Rockwall-Heath battle for the UIL Class 6A State Title
It's an all-DFW area UIL Class 6A baseball state championship game as Keller attempts to "win Texas" in their first-ever championship appearance and Rockwall-Heath fights for their first state title since 2012.
Senior pitcher Eric Hammond led the charge on Friday for the Indians as he dominated the game from the mound allowing only four hits and one run to defeat Houston Strake Jesuit 7-1. The USC signee recorded nine strikeouts in six innings. Keller took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third inning as junior Mike Dattalo drove senior Griffin Barton home with a sacrifice fly. With smart batting from Whit Thoms, Aidan Connors, and Dattalo, the Indians were able to secure the victory in the state semifinals.
With a goal to "win Texas," Keller has posted a 35-7 overall record this season and has only one more opponent standing between them and their goal.
Junior pitcher Baylor Baumann took to the field on Friday as the Hawks were set to play against Comal Smithson Valley- one of the most stacked with D1 signees teams in the state. Allowing only four hits in the state semifinals, Baumann pitched a complete game to lead Heath to an 8-4 victory over Smithson Valley. On top of impeccable pitching, Heath's offense came out shining taking a quick 5-0 lead. An attempt at a rally for Smithson Valley was cut short as Heath took the victory.
Rockwall-Heath will attempt to win a state title for the first time since 2012. With a 37-11-1 overall record, the Hawks will have an opportunity to nab their program's second state title when they take on Keller.
What To Expect
Although the two teams haven't met this season, coming out of the same area, they share many common opponents. While Rockwall-Heath has posted a 5-3 record over common opponents, Keller has posted a 7-2 record. Both have had big wins over the likes of Rockwall and Mansfield en route to their championship appearance.
Both teams have the pitching depth that it takes to play on this stage with a level of high school baseball that is unmatchable, but the win is going to come down to the bats. With incredible defense coming out of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, it's going to be a battle of the bats to really decide who wins Texas.
The championship game will be held at Dell Diamond in Round Rock, Texas with a first-pitch time of 4 p.m.
With the mantra of "win Texas", no one can deny that Keller baseball has had an incredible season so far. From finishing first in their district to posting an 82% win percentage, the Indians have a lot going for them as they enter the UIL Class 6A State Tournament. The icing on the cake for the Indians this season would be a state title. Let's take a look at how they got to this point!
The Indians opened the season strong in non-district matchups against Rockwall, Prosper Rock Hill, Coppell, Plano, and more. Opponents had a difficult time snuffing out Keller's fire as the Indians went on to post a 9-1 district record; their only district loss coming against an incredibly strong Southlake Carroll team en route to playoffs.
In the first two rounds of playoffs, Keller took on Weatherford and El Paso Americas with ease, defeating both teams in only two games. Then came V.R. Eaton. Despite dropping the second game, the Indians were able to regroup and take the series in three. Next up came Coppell in the Regional Semi-Finals. In an almost identical fashion, Keller dropped game 2 only to come back stronger in game three for the series win.
Last week, Keller faced off against Southlake Carroll in a meeting that would decide the fate of both teams. One would advance to the state tournament, the other would have their hopes at a state title squandered. Keller topped Southlake 2-1 in game 1 before a huge loss nearly set them all the way back in game two as Southlake won by 10 runs. Keller showed their nature of resilience as they entered game 3 looking as strong as ever; defeating Southlake Carroll and advancing to the state tournament.
With a 32-7 overall record, the Indians have outscored their opponents by 169 runs. Playing great offense with a strong batting lineup, the Indians are able to come in each game ready to get rolling. Scoring early and often seems to be the name of the game in Keller. Keller will have to keep that same energy going into the State Semifinals if they want to advance to the championships.