Although it’s not the ending senior reliever Riley Coover and his Keller teammates had envisioned, the baseball season will be remembered for years. Keller dropped their regional finals series in three games to Arlington Martin, but the Indians still have a perfect 14-0 district mark and the district title to go along with the playoff run.
The players will remember not only their success on the field, but their relationships as well.
Coover’s role as a reliever and sometimes closer meant every time he was called upon, his team needed him. But really, he said, every player on the team was the same way.
“There’s a lot of camaraderie. We get behind each other,” Coover said. “I’ve never been on a team as close as this one in my life.”
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With 13 other seniors on the team, the group has grown together over the years and brought the younger players into the inner circle.
It’s one reason Coover said the Indians were able to find the strength and wherewithal to rally to come-from-behind wins.
Coover has helped build that culture on the Indians over the course of his time at Keller.
“I’ve been solely pitching since my sophomore year,” he said, “and been playing little league but not taking on the role of just a pitcher until my sophomore year.”
He acknowledged that there was a time he wanted to help his team at the plate, as well, but realized there were others that were hitting better than him.
“It’s every pitcher’s wish to get up to the plate,” Coover said. “But I trust others to get the hit, and glad they’re out there instead of me.”
Looking ahead now, Coover said he will attend Arkansas in the fall and leave the pitching mound behind him. But it won’t be without looking back.
“I’ll always reminisce about playing for Coach [Rob] Stramp and [Jared] Stafford,” Coover said. “I have countless memories of playing the game I love. I don’t regret any of it.”
Some of what he reflects on is being named to the all-district second team in his junior year and being able to come into games and help in difficult spots.
Coover said he was successful with a two-seam fastball and slider and is proud of never giving up on the mound and maintaining the confidence to get the team out of a jam.
That confidence was contagious on the ballclub this year and will hopefully take hold with the underclassmen coming behind Coover.
His confidence has built since his sophomore year, Coover said, when he had a hard time taking command of his pitching. At the control improved, so did the confidence and with more confidence, the pitching became more reliable.
The reliability of the pitching – and hitting – by Keller this season left its mark.
“We were hoping to go 14-0 and expecting to win district,” Coover said. “We had 14 seniors and a lot of juniors that are very good. We may not have imagined going this far,” he said, but he still hoped to have played his final game in Austin, though.