KENNEDALE — The Kennedale baseball program started from the bottom in 1991 and has grown into one of the top Class 3A programs in Texas.
The Wildcats, who won a state title in 2011, locked up their 18th consecutive postseason appearance Saturday and clinched at least a share of the District 6-3A crown on Tuesday. Kennedale (19-5, 8-1), the No. 8-ranked 3A team in Texas, can sew up the 6-3A title Friday with a win over Mineral Wells.
Coach Jet Teague has been with the baseball program since the beginning, initially as an assistant in 1991 before taking over the reins the following season.
That first year was just tough, we had juniors and seniors who hadnt played in three or four years and they were having trouble hitting the ball out of the infield or pitching strikes and, oh my gosh, playing defense was a whole new element to them, Teague said. The one thing about the young men at Kennedale is they are going to keep going, they are going to keep trying and eventually in 96 we were able to put together a team that was pretty solid.
The Wildcats advanced to the regional finals in their first playoff appearance in 1996 and have finished first or second in district play in all but one of the 18 seasons during the postseason streak.
Teague said the current squad stacks up with all of the previous playoff teams and even sees some similarities to the 2011 state title team.
Saturdays 13-11 victory over Fort Worth Castleberry not only clinched the playoff spot, but showed the competitiveness Teague admires about his athletes.
The Wildcats entered the contest looking to avenge their only district loss of the season but gave up six runs in the top of the first. They could have hung their heads but instead answered with five runs of their own in the bottom of the first and eventually gutted out the win.
With this group they have a lot of heart, and sometimes they expect too much and put too much pressure on themselves, Teague said. As far as competitiveness, they are on par. They remind me of the 2011 team and a lot of our playoff teams. They compete for everything, the kids buy into it, and they love it.
Expect plenty of scouts toting radar guns to be in attendance for Fridays District 4-5A tilt when Keller Fossil Ridge hosts No. 5 Southlake Carroll as two of the top prospects in the state are expected to take the mound.
TCU signee Tyler Alexander (7-0), who is considered by many to be the top lefty prospect in Texas, will go for the Dragons (24-3, 11-1). Alexander owned a 0.66 ERA with 53 strikeouts in 32 innings pitched before picking up his second save in a 1-0 win over Keller on Tuesday for Carrolls eighth shutout in 12 district games this season.
Dragons coach Larry Hughes said Alexander is the only four-year letterman hes coached in his 27-year career.
Oklahoma signee Sheldon Neuse (6-0), the Star-Telegram Player of the Year a season ago, will start for Fossil Ridge (23-5, 9-3). Like Alexander, the righty is a four-year letterman and among area leaders with a 0.60 ERA and 52 strikeouts.
Neuse is also an excellent shortstop and a terror at the plate, batting .457 with 27 RBI.
Both Alexander and Neuse are expected to be selected in the MLB First-Year Player Draft in June.
They have a two-game lead on us, but over the past couple of years weve had a lot of good games, intense games against Carroll, Fossil Ridge coach Doug Dulany said. With both of us throwing our ace it ought to be a good game for the fans to come out and watch.
Jarret Johnson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @JohnsonJarret
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