The Fossil Ridge baseball team entered this week with a one-game lead in the district standings, but this week’s schedule could spell a championship or a second-place seed for the Panthers.
On the strength of a Keller win over Carroll and a Ridge whitewashing of Haltom, the Panthers took the top spot in District 4-5A. Carroll dropped to second, but the top two teams meet each other on Tuesday. Fossil Ridge also must face a dangerous Timber Creek squad on Friday.
In the final week of the regular season, picking up two wins would give the Panthers the district championship and the top seed heading into the playoffs late next week.
Carroll already owns a head-to-head win over Fossil Ridge, but Panthers head coach Doug Dulany said the prior two seasons have produced season splits, with each visiting team collecting a win. Fossil Ridge plays at Carroll on Tuesday. “I’m hoping that rule holds true,” Dulany said jokingly. Results from the game can be found at www.dfwvarsity.com.
“The first goal every season is to make it to the playoffs,” Dulany said. “Then it’s to win the district championship. The guys are fired up and excited to play. We were able to take care of business last week so that it’s not a must-win situation,” Dulany said of securing a playoff spot. “We should be able to play loose.”
It was the fourth extra-inning game for Keller in the second round of the district schedule.
The win for the Indians pushed them into a third-place tie with Richland, with both sitting at 7-5 in the district standings.
Keller has a formidable week of their own, with Timber Creek on Tuesday and then playing at home against Richland on Friday.
Timber Creek, at 6-7, is just a game behind Keller and Richland.
“We’re in a tight spot because they’re one game behind us and we lost the first time,” said Keller head coach Rob Stramp. “They’ll have their best pitcher going on Tuesday,” Stramp said of Falcons pitcher Isaac Schlabach. “We’ve got our work cut out.”
In the Carroll game, Keller gave up a run in the eighth inning and had to score twice in the bottom half of the inning.
“It was definitely a big win,” Stramp said. “We’re getting used to tight games. I think we’re just believing in ourselves and not giving up and finding a way to do it,” he said, also alluding to the fourth extra-inning game this cycle.
Head coach Derek Watson said the Falcons just didn’t put themselves in a good position, but acknowledged the district competition is at a high level.
“One thing we preached is to be in control of our own situations,” Watson said of facing Keller and Fossil Ridge in the final week of the regular season.
“We feel good about just having to take care of business on the field,” Watson added. “With this team in the district schedule, we’ve had our back against the wall and we’ve come out fighting and give it all we’ve got. At this point it’s sort of do-or-die.”
The bi-district round of the playoffs will pair District 4-5A with the top four placers of District 3-5A.
Fossil Ridge and Carroll will take on either Paschal or Weatherford, as those teams are tied for third in the Arlington-heavy district. Martin and Arlington will be the top two seeds.