While his first season came to an early end, Coppell head baseball coach Ryan Howard saw the program take on just the shape he wanted.
Coming in from Lake Dallas – where he spent the past three years, capping it off with a trip to the regional semifinals in 2019 – Howard entered the 6A ranks and immediately instilled the foundation he wanted right from the beginning, even if it was all cut a little short amid the ongoing health pandemic.
“I felt like I was kind of able to establish what I wanted to establish in the fall,” Howard said. “That was really just a mindset of how we’re going to go about things. My core belief of just hard work and attitude and getting physically stronger and becoming the best athlete that we can be. I thought we had a great fall with that. I was really looking forward going into this spring.”
The schedule proved to be a daunting one, and the growing pains were to be expected against such formidable foes while in your first year under a new regime.
Through Coppell’s first 12 games before the season was ultimately canceled, exactly half of those teams were ranked in the top 25 in the state in their respective classifications by Diamond Pro/Texas High School Baseball.
In game No. 2, it dropped a close 2-0 affair to 6A No. 5 McKinney Boyd. The next game was another 2-0 defeat, this time to 5A No. 9 Frisco Wakeland. Then a 5-1 loss to 6A No. 10 Prosper. Later, it fell to 6A No. 13 Spring Branch Memorial.
Yet as the season wore on, the more the Cowboys grew and molded together into a dangerous team.
“Some of it can be nerves. Some of it can be the first 25 at-bats of their year, 30 at-bats of the year,” Howard said. “A lot of things can be attributed to that, but I really feel like we were getting things going in the right direction.”
Once it got acclimated, Coppell found a groove at just the right time heading into District 6-6A play, feeling comfortable that it was ready to make a district run and a push toward a 16thconsecutive playoff berth.
In a loaded tournament schedule, Coppell’s fortunes changed dramatically. Five days after recording its third win of the season, it stormed back from an eight-run deficit to defeat Rockwall in 11-8 fashion, knocking down the 12th-ranked team in Texas’ largest classification.
And the next contest featured a 7-1 victory over Georgetown, who was the No. 19 squad in 5A and was coming off a state championship appearance a year ago, to end the season on a high note and conclude that three-game winning streak before Texas Gov. Greg Abbott eventually announced the closure of schools for the remainder of the academic year and the UIL quickly following suit with its athletics calendar.
“I felt like our confidence was coming along, our offense was starting to click at the right time and I just felt really good about the direction we were headed,” Howard said. “We had a lot of guys getting experience. That’s probably one of the most disappointing things is because I felt like we had a lot of good ball ahead of us.”
Howard is disappointed to see this group of seniors go, especially under these circumstances, but he is grateful for the character they showed and how they helped him build the culture he wanted as soon as he took over the reins.
Now he looks ahead to the future of the Cowboys’ program that has him excited, which features a plethora of starters returning – including three juniors on the mound – and a talented class from the junior varsity Red bunch that went 6-0-3 and put up 13-plus runs three times.
“The whole senior class (will be missed),” Howard said. “If you’re still around this program as a senior, you’re doing something that’s making an impact on our ball club. I am excited with what we got coming back. If anything, I think we are lucky because I think it is somewhat of a smaller senior class to where we’ll get several of these guys that were starting as youngsters and we’ll be getting them back.”