Region 1-6A might as well be labeled as murderer’s row when it comes to the quality of teams that the Coppell baseball team has overcome to earn its first berth in a regional semifinal since 2016.
First, there was Dallas Jesuit, which is ranked seventh in the May 3 Diamond Pro/THSB 6A Top 25 Poll. The Cowboys, another state-ranked team that checks in at No. 9 in that poll, downed the Rangers in a two-game sweep of an area-round, best-of-three playoff series.
Those two victories advanced Coppell to the regional quarterfinals, where the Cowboys faced another ranked opponent in No. 15 Prosper. Coppell sought revenge for a 5-4 loss to the Eagles during a March 12 game. And avenge, the Cowboys did.
Coppell senior Will Rodman allowed just two runs – both coming on a two-run home run by Prosper’s Easton Carmichael in the first inning – while the Cowboys scored three runs in the second inning, the final one coming on an RBI single by sophomore Tanner Sever, to lift the team to a 3-2 win in Game 1.
Sever played a key role in Game 2.
Coppell senior Tim Malone and junior Will Boylan combined to toss a complete-game shutout, setting up some late heroics by Sever. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, Sever lined a single into center field to score senior Tony Vernars and give the Cowboys a 1-0 victory to polish off a two-game sweep of Prosper in front of a packed crowd at Lake Dallas on May 21.
"That was a great crowd," said Ryan Howard, Coppell head coach. "Both sides were into it for obvious reasons. It was a great ballgame. It was going to come down to who get a hit with a runner on second base. I couldn't be more excited for Tanner Sever. He has been a big fixture and a solid hitter in the bottom part of our lineup."
Of course, Sever’s walk-off, series-ending hit, wouldn’t have been possible without the pitching of Malone and Boylan, as well as clutch hitting by Vernars. Vernars singled and then stole second base to move into scoring position.
"Tim has stepped up and done a great job for us on the mound the past few weeks," Howard said. "He's a confident, hard-working senior that loves being put in that spotlight and loves to compete. And speaking with the rest of the staff, they've all really bought into attacking the zone and making hitters beat them and trusting their defense. Our defense has played great behind them."
Now, Coppell moves onto the regional semifinals. And, the opposition for the Cowboys won’t get any easier. Waiting for Coppell (30-7-1) is fifth-ranked Keller (31-5). Game 1 is set for 6 p.m. Thursday. Game 2 is 1 p.m. Friday. If necessary, Game 3 will be played at 1 p.m. Saturday. Denton Guyer is the site for all three games.
"Obviously, getting into the final four of our region, where there are four talented, really well-coached teams is great," Howard said. "Keller is certainly one of them. They're very, very talented on the mound. They competed very well at the plate. They don't make a whole lot of mistakes defensively. They're a lot like us. I think both of our teams are very similar, and I think that it will be a good series."
Coppell got the better of Keller on March 12. The Cowboys scored eight runs in the top of the first inning and never looked back in an 11-4 win. Sophomore TJ Pompey had the big hit in the fast start for Coppell with a two-run home run.
Keller did hit three home runs in the game, but the Indians were unable to overcome two hits apiece by Pompey and sophomore catcher Bradley Castillo.
Keller has rebounded rather well, winning 29 of its last 33 games to advance to the fourth round of the playoffs. But, it didn’t come without a scare. V.R. Eaton forced Game 3 last week after a 2-1 victory in Game 2. In the deciding game, Eaton led 5-4 after five innings, but Keller put up nine runs in the top of the sixth and went on to earn a wild 13-10 victory.