In looking to fill the void left by 16 graduates from his 2019 roster, Allen head baseball coach Paul Coe put a premium on the Eagles’ final week of the preseason.
Although Allen carried an impressive record at 7-1-2 entering that week, Coe wanted something that could springboard the Eagles into what was shaping up to be a wildly competitive District 9-6A slate.
“We graduated so many and I told our kids going into that last weekend that we needed to find some signature wins and see where we were,” he said. “That Thursday, they beat two really good baseball teams and things were trending up, for sure.”
Wins over Whitehouse (9-2) and state-ranked Austin Westlake (6-3) provided just for that Allen. Instead of getting to try and further solidify that momentum, the Eagles had their promising season cut short like so many others around the state.
“I think we were just starting to figure out our identity and figure out just how good we could be,” Coe said.
The Eagles’ season concluded with a 9-1-2 record and the No. 15 ranking in the final Diamond Pro/THSB 6A top 25 poll — a mark buoyed by seven outings of at least nine runs scored and an average of just two runs allowed. That included five shutout wins, with Coe lauding the steadiness of senior Nate Wodka on the mound, while seniors Will Smith, Corbin Lingo and junior Brett Tanksley also earned shutout wins in the preseason.
At the plate, senior Cooper Huspen had handled his move up the batting order and into the leadoff spot with ease. Senior Cade McGlade was back from injury and producing. Senior Brett Harper softened the blow of Joey Crisci’s graduation by taking the reins at catcher, and senior Philip Crotts was among the area’s top hitters.
“We had a lot of surprises and a lot of things that were starting to excite me as a coach as we continued to play,” Coe said.
The COVID-19 pandemic’s cancellation of the season denied Allen a chance at testing its mettle against a stacked 9-6A district that included four other programs ranked within the state’s top 25 — McKinney Boyd at No. 5, Prosper at No. 10, Plano East at No. 23 and Plano Senior at No. 25. Overall, all eight teams in the district had records above .500, four had already picked up double-digit wins and the conference’s collective win percentage was 78.4%
“We knew it would be tough, but our kids were ready for that challenge,” Coe said.
For many of those players, it was a long-awaited chance at finally getting some shine in the varsity limelight, with the Eagles’ gaudy 2019 senior class giving way to another in 2020. In total, 14 seniors saw their high school baseball careers come to an abrupt end at Allen — a cast that includes Austin Carmichael, Crotts, Logan Edwards, Harper, Huspen, John Keates, Cole Latos, Lingo, McGlade, Evan O’Daniel, Luke Shepard, Smith, Wodka and Caleb Yowell.
“Some of these kids waited four years for this and are on varsity for the very first time. To have something like this taken from them is devastating,” Coe said.
The Eagles hope for similar promise in 2021 as they look to replenish another sizable senior group. They’ll look to names like Tanksley — a go-to arm for Allen dating back to his freshman year — as well as junior Evan Anderson as linchpins in that effort as the Eagles transition to a new-look 5-6A that includes Denton Braswell, Denton Guyer and Little Elm alongside familiar foes McKinney, McKinney Boyd and Prosper.