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.
The Indians have posted a 35-7 overall record on the season. After finishing first in their district, they fought their way through an incredible playoff run to make it to the UIL State Tournament. With six athletes posting above a .300 batting average, the Indians' lineup will be hard to shut down. Seniors Gray Rowlett (.393), Trey Orman (.345), Clayton Thomas (.333), Aidan Connors (.369), and Todd Baffa (.304) alongside junior Mike Dattalo (.409) have led the charge all season as the Keller offense has outscored their opponents by over 170 runs this season.
The Keller bats combined with a nearly unmatchable pitching duo in Eric Hammond (USC signee) and Robert Cranz (Wichita State signee) gives the Indians a possible upper hand against a strong Strake Jesuit team.
Strake Jesuit Crusaders
The Crusaders have posted a 27-12-1 record on the season so far en route to the semifinals. As a team that consistently scores behind a great lineup, the Crusader's offense is going to be hard to shut down.
Outscoring their opponents by nearly 100 runs this season, the Crusaders have been on fire. With sophomore Clay Richardson (batting .421 on the season) and junior Trey Duffield (.314) leading the way in batting averages for the team, Strake Jesuit has what it takes to truly put Keller's defense to work.
Defense wins championships. Keller's defensive strength will have what it takes to advance to the state final, but not without a fight.
The semifinal is set to begin at 4 p.m. at Dell Diamond in Round Rock.