Keller Citizen

Lady Indians waited 10 years to end state title drought

Keller catcher Shelby Henderson was an important part of this year’s state champion team both as a contributor and as a leader.
Keller catcher Shelby Henderson was an important part of this year’s state champion team both as a contributor and as a leader. senglish@star-telegram.com

Softball state title droughts in Keller are not acceptable.

When Bryan Poehler accepted the head coaching position at Keller in 2014, he fondly recalled the conversation he had with Keller ISD athletic director Bob DeJonge.

“I knew he was kidding, but he said that it was coming up on 10 years when Keller last won a state title and that it was time to fix that,” Poehler said with a laugh. “Well, we were one year late. But I think we’re OK.”

The drought officially ended this past Saturday in Austin when the Lady Indians (32-7) defeated Pearland, 5-0, at Red & Charline McCombs Field at the University of Texas. Keller won its third state title after making its seventh state tournament appearance. Poehler called it the best game his team had played in 2016.

For a coach that had really never been around the sport until he came to Keller a few years ago, Poehler got the hang of things pretty quickly. He also understood and embraced the expectations.

“I had been a baseball coach when I was in Mansfield, and when I was coaching as an assistant I just thought it was going to be pretty much the same,” Poehler said. “I fell in love with it. The girls were fantastic.

“I just thought, how could I pass up one of the top 20 jobs in Texas? There are bunch of coaches who would kill for this job. It was amazing they had this kind of confidence in me. But I was going to do everything I could to maintain what had happened.”

Keller softball expectations are not so much tied into qualifying for the state playoffs and winning district titles. Those are givens. The expectations are how deep of a playoff run can each team make.

The 2016 team still felt the heartbreak of what happened in the 2015 postseason. A controversial fair/foul call broke open the deciding game in the Region I championship series against Lewisville. Lewisville advanced to the state tournament.

Keller jumped off to a quick start. A 2-1 win over Pearland in the Bryan-College Station tournament changed the tone. Assistant Tiffanie Boone looked at Poehler and said this team was going to win the state title.

The elements were there. Pitcher Kaylee Rogers went 29-5. Freshman center fielder Amanda Desario turned into to an offensive ignitor. Freshman left fielder Caraline Woodall never flinched in her first year of varsity competition.

However, the constant for this team was senior catcher Shelby Henderson. Between working with Rogers, calling a game and batting, she seemed to be the one that never a let a moment become greater than it was.

“She kept herself calm in pressure situations,” Poehler said. “In fact, the pressure pushed her harder to remain steady but to perform. She was in control.

“There was a lot of composure on this team. They got to a point where they didn’t know how to lose. If they did, they would just come back and find a way. That’s just what they did.”

Now, another piece of hardware with a picture of a softball on it resides in Keller.

One more Northeast Tarrant softball title

We also want to use this space to recognize what the Birdville softball team program accomplished. The program made its inaugural appearance at the 5A state tournament count. John Love’s team upset Frisco in the semifinals and then defeated Gregory-Portland, 8-7, in the title game. The Lady Hawks completed the season at 30-10.

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