Whether through fast starts or by coming on strong at the end, the Keller softball team can do whatever is needed.
Just ask Flower Mound, which went into the series with Keller as one of the top-ranked teams in the state.
Keller, 23-4, swept the Lady Jaguars, 2-0, in the regional quarterfinals, winning games played at Kennedale and Prosper to take advantage of available turf fields.
The first game was an exciting come-from-behind win capped by a walk-off grand slam. It was freshman Kasey Simpson’s third time to hit a game-winner for Keller.
The second and deciding game was a 14-6 win with Keller posting a sizable lead from the outset.
“We like to start fast and put runs on the board from the first inning, and put pressure on them,” said Keller head coach Bryan Poehler.
In Game 1, Keller errors led to a run per inning in the first three frames for Flower Mound.
But in the fourth, Keller got going on the strength of the first of two home runs by Shelby Henderson. In the fifth, Henderson tied it at 3-3 with a two-out home run. Flower Mound came back to add a run in the sixth to take a 4-3 lead.
Kaylee Rogers shut down the side for Keller in the top of the seventh, setting up the team’s heroics. After an error by Flower Mound to allow runners to advance to second and third, Henderson was intentionally walked to load the bases with two out. Simpson came up next and promptly salted the game away to finish out the 7-4 win.
The Lady Indians will now take on Lubbock Coronado in the regional semifinals. Coronado got past Weatherford in their quarterfinals matchup.
The first win may not have been any more pivotal than the second game, but it did give the Lady Indians a confidence they took into Game 2.
“We started building confidence about the fourth inning of Game 1,” Poehler said.
Keller suspected a pitching change by Flower Mound in the second game and was ready.
Keller may now be the favorite heading into the next round or two, given the notoriety of the Flower Mound program.
“We’ve got confidence to play with anybody,” Poehler added.
The Flower Mound series was a measuring stick to some degree, and Poehler said for his team to come out and play as it did offensively in Game 2 was a big step.
“We worked with a lot of our hitters and worked out some of the kinks,” he said. “We’re now playing the best ball of the season and hopefully we continue that.”
The semifinals with Coronado may be a one-game series, if the Lubbock team gets the coin flip to go its way. Coronado has graduation scheduled for Friday and would prefer to play on Thursday.
Regardless of the series format, the two teams have decided on Abilene Christian University as the location.
Poehler said the Lady Mustangs are a familiar opponent, as they knocked Keller out of the third round of last year’s playoffs. They also have players who have been teammates of Keller players during the summer club season.
“This is a big grudge match,” Poehler said, “and we’re looking for payback.”
With a win over Coronado, Keller would look to take on the winner of Lewisville and Arlington Martin in the regional finals.