High School Sports

5 things to watch during the regional finals: Keller, Eaton rematch headlines 5th round

Keller senior Dylann Kaderka, left, and Eaton senior Maddy Wright will face off in the 6A Region I final starting Wednesday, May 22 at Flower Mound High School.
Keller senior Dylann Kaderka, left, and Eaton senior Maddy Wright will face off in the 6A Region I final starting Wednesday, May 22 at Flower Mound High School.

The regional finals begin Tuesday May 21 and run until Saturday May 25.

The winners will clinch a spot in the UIL state tournament in Austin.

1. You got your wish DFW

Without even throwing a single pitch this week, Dallas-Fort Worth is sure to have at least three teams at the UIL state tournament in Austin. That’s because there are three regional finals pitting two DFW schools; Keller vs. Eaton, The Colony vs. Little Elm, and Forney vs. Reedy.

The headliner is Keller (33-3-1) and Eaton (31-2). The three-game series starts Wednesday at Flower Mound.

Coming from the toughest district in the state, 5-6A, it will be the third, fourth and maybe fifth meetings of the season.

“The girls are confident,” Eaton coach Lynn Rottman said. “They know that Keller is a great team. We respect them and what they’ve done. The best thing we can do is give them our best games. Every game we play we try to raise our standard of excellence.”

The Indians have been as dominant as any other school in the state, and probably the nation, over the past five years. They’ve been to the regional final all five years and have won 157 games over that span.

They won state titles in 2016 and 2017, and enter this week with a 21-game winning streak.

But Eaton has quickly become one of the premier teams in DFW in the shortest period of time.

The Eagles played their first varsity season in 2017 and reached the regional quarterfinals. They followed that up with a trip to the semis last year while winning district titles both times.

“This group is extremely special. They started the program here at Eaton four years ago,” Rottman said. “They are resilient, hardworking, trusting and very caring individuals. They give you their best every single day and they believe in each other. They have established a strong tradition for Eaton softball.”

What makes this match-up even more intriguing is that Eaton only has two losses on the year, both to the Indians, and both by 4-3 scores. Keller junior catcher Hailey Jones hit the walk-off home run in the first game and hit the go-ahead home run in the sixth inning of the second game.

Even better is that both teams feature a load of Division I talent.

The Eagles have six players either signed or committed to play college softball; Maddy Wright (ACU), Kennedy Crites (Texas Tech), Audry Fleming (Texas Southern), Jaden Middlebrook (UNT), Ashlyn Walker (UNT) and Chelsea Blankenship (Harding).

“We are blessed as a softball team,” Rottman said. “From the moment we started, we zeroed in on playing the best softball we could play day in and day out. Eaton softball is about pushing each other to get better, to pick each other up when things don’t go well, and to support each other on and off the field. The girls believe in each other and I think that says a lot about a strong program.”

The Indians also have six; Amanda DeSario (Texas Tech), Riley Love (Texas Tech), Caraline Woodall (Indiana), Hayden Brown (LSU), Maggie Coleman (Hardin-Simmons) and Olivia Shimmin (Illinois College).

And that doesn’t even count the rest of the girls who play on some of the best select teams in the area.

2. Another district rematch in 5A

The Colony and Little Elm begin their three-game series on Tuesday with Game 1 in Prosper. The two teams finished with the top 2 seeds in District 8-5A with The Colony winning both games in the regular season, 1-0 and 5-2.

It was a pitcher’s duel between Wichita State commit Lauren Lucas and Iowa State bound senior Karlie Charles in the first meeting with the Cougars (37-2) getting an early run. The Lobos (30-7) led 2-0 in the second game, but the Cougars scored a run in the fifth and sixth inning, and added three in the seventh.

The Colony, which won state in 2017, comes in with a 25-game winning streak, but don’t count Little Elm out if it drops Game 1. The Lobos have twice lost Game 1 this postseason, only to come back to win Game 2 and 3 against Grapevine and Azle.

Cougars’ shortstop Jayda Coleman, the nation’s top-ranked 2020 player, is committed to Oklahoma. Catcher Jacee Hamlin is a Texas Tech commit, but keep an eye on Olivia Wick, Jodee Duncan, Michelle Tillapaugh and Adrianna Honderich in this series.

For Little Elm, watch for Izzi Fielder, Georgia Heathcock, Leah Salinas, Mikayla Roy and Alyssa and Madison Adams.

3. 4-peat for Brock?

The Eagles have a chance not many can say they’ve done; go to state four straight years. Brock (31-6) plays in the 3A Region I final against Bushland. The three-game series starts Wednesday at Iowa Park.

Runs have come easy for the Eagles. They’ve scored 10 or more in nine straight games. Overall, they’ve won 14 in a row.

In eight playoff games, Brock is averaging 15 runs per game. This included a 34-1 sweeping of Slaton in the semis.

Brock, known for its athletic success in nearly every sport, has won 126 games the past four years, and 154 the past five.

But Bushland (36-7) won’t be a cake walk. The Falcons dropped from 4A. They made the regional final last season and are 70-14 the past two years. The Falcons scored 23 runs against Clyde in Game 3 of the semis.

Landry Felts2.jpg
Holly Wagner Courtesy

4. The upstart team vs. the seasoned veterans

Another team making its first trip to the regional finals is Frisco Reedy. Like Eaton, the Lions (24-7) are playing in their third season and now get defending 5A champ Forney (35-3).

The Lions and Jackrabbits play a one-game series, 7 p.m. Friday at Wylie.

Reedy went 5-16 in its inaugural season then went 17-14 in 2018. The Lions finished third in District 9-5A this year. They swept last year’s regional finalists Hallsville 6-3 and 12-3 to extend their winning streak to eight games, where they’ve hit nine home runs and 29 extra base hits.

Houston commit Micaela Wark has hit a home run in five straight and seven of eight. The only time she didn’t go yard during this stretch; she went 2 for 4 with a triple and three RBIs.

Wark’s older sister, Maia, is a UNT commit. Toni Mcinnis is committed to Kansas, just like Forney pitcher Savanna DesRochers, who was voted 5A state title game MVP last season.

But she is one of the many tough outs when it comes to the Forney lineup, even with Missouri commit Vanessa Hollingsworth out with a knee injury. Caleigh Cross, Hannah Holdbrook, Trinity Cannon and Sadie Hewitt are other commits or signees.

Even with DesRochers and Cannon (Texas A&M) going 1 for 6 in Game 2 against McKinney North, the Jackrabbits still managed to score 13 runs on the Bulldogs. Cross drove in three, Hewitt was 3 for 4 with four RBIs and Kayla Beers and Jessika Roberts were a combined 3 for 4 with two RBIs.

Forney has won five straight and 24 of its past 25 games.

5. Wylie, Decatur and Anna

Wylie and Anna are also making program history this week.

The Pirates (35-2) face Klein Collins (35-2) in the 6A Region II finals starting Thursday at Baylor. The Coyotes (22-9-2) face North Lamar (27-8) in a one-game series, 7 p.m Thursday at A&M-Commerce.

This will be Anna’s fourth one-game series of the postseason. The Coyotes beat North Dallas, Ranchview and Celina before sweeping Farmersville in last week’s semis.

Wylie has won eight straight and 31 of 32. Its only losses came to Forney and Pearland Dawson. The Pirates are averaging seven runs per game during the playoffs.

Decatur pitcher Reagan Chism, who is committed to SFA, is 12-0 in her last 12 starts and has given up just one run. The Eagles (23-4) face Andrews (31-7) in a three-game series starting Thursday at Abilene Christian.

It’s Decatur’s first trip to the regional final since reaching state in 2002.

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Born and raised in Hawaii, Brian Gosset graduated from Northern Arizona University with a degree in journalism before coming to Texas in 2014. He’s covered high school sports — yes, pretty much every high school sport — for the Star-Telegram ever since.