Keller baseball encouraged by Arlington Martin’s success

Posted Monday, Jun. 10, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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A month ago, Keller baseball’s early bi-district exit from the playoffs seemed to be a disappointing way to end the season.

But as their bi-district opponent, Arlington Martin, continued to advance through the playoffs, the loss became slightly more palatable until Keller realized they were beaten by the Region I champion, which earned a berth to the 5A state tournament in Round Rock.

The series with Keller might have been one of the tougher Martin faced on its path to the state semifinals. Keller came from behind in the bottom of the seventh, only to lose Game 1 by a run in the top of the eighth. In Game 2, Martin jumped out to a 4-0 lead after the first inning and was able to ward off a last inning Keller rally to take the game and the series with a 5-3 win.

Keller finished fourth in District 4-5A, which lined up the series with District 3-5A champion Martin, who went undefeated through district play. However, this was an unfavorable first-round draw for both teams, as Martin knew it was in for a battle, head coach Curt Culbertson said after Game 2 of the first-round series.

“We knew that we weren’t going to walk into this thing and it was going to be easy,” he said. “Coach [Rob] Stramp is a good friend of mine for many years and we know what kind of program he runs and it wasn’t going to be easy.”

Martin ultimately fell to Fort Bend Dulles 3-0 Friday in the 5A state semifinals, but the Warriors’ second straight tournament berth was a confidence boost for Keller.

“I think their eyes are opened up and they see that we played Martin very well, and they’re in Austin so that must mean we’re not far away, especially when you have everyone coming back, pretty much,” Stramp said. “I think it was encouraging to them to see what it takes and see we’re not that far off from making a run.”

Keller graduates just two starting position players and three pitchers, including one starter this season, leaving the Indians poised to make some noise in the 2013-2014 season. Stramp said he has the players to fill the positional holes, but needs young pitchers to put in the offseason work that will develop them into a quality starter and a few relief pitchers.

“They change a lot from one year to the next and grow a lot,” Stramp said. “What they were one year, they could be totally different the next in terms of getting better – being physically more mature and mentally more mature. “

Before Keller can even think about making a deep playoff run, it has the incredibly tough challenge of making it through District 4-5A, containing Southlake Carroll and Keller Fossil Ridge, both of which also gave Martin a run for its money in the Warrior’s trek to state.

“It was a tough district,” Stramp said. “Usually our task is to just get out of district. I don’t usually care where we finish, let’s just get out and give ourselves an opportunity in the playoffs. This was a year you didn’t want to finish fourth. That wasn’t the place to finish with that Martin team.”

As Stramps’ youngest team in his 15 years at Keller develops and becomes a year older, the coach hopes it will help his team make that one final play, unlike the few losses this year’s team took.

“We just couldn’t get over the hump,” Stramp said. “The games we lost, we just couldn’t quite come up with the big hit or the big play. “

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