High School Sports

Keller, Birdville bask in title glow of softball double for area

Birdville player Elena Garcia reacts to being announced as the Most Valuable Player after their championship win against Gregory-Portland.
Birdville player Elena Garcia reacts to being announced as the Most Valuable Player after their championship win against Gregory-Portland. The Dallas Morning News

Keller’s Christina Gwyn and Crowley’s Meagan Denny helped their teams win UIL state softball titles — becoming the last pair of area teams to win in the same year.

That was 2003.

Thirteen years later, Class 6A Keller and 5A Birdville have turned the area double again, winning UIL state titles Saturday in Austin.

Both had championship moments even before the title games.

Keller (32-7) was one strike away from elimination in the regional quarterfinals against Plano West. Then senior catcher Shelby Henderson smacked a two-run double for a walk-off, 3-2 win in Game 3.

“Oh gosh, that was a very stressful round and just thinking that one strike could’ve changed our whole fun. It baffles me,” said Henderson, who also hit the go-ahead home run in Game 1 against Plano West.

Senior pitcher Kaylee Rogers (29-5) allowed just four hits, and Henderson hit a two-run home run, as the Indians blanked Pearland 5-0 in the 6A final for the program’s third softball title.

Keller led 3-0 with two outs in the first inning — which was more runs than Pearland had given up in three previous state title games (2).

Junior second baseman Camryn Woodall drove in the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth to beat Humble Atascocita 5-4 in Friday’s state semifinal.

“It really shows how we never gave up and we always pushed ourselves to do bigger and better things,” Henderson said. “It shows how our playoff run might not have been the easiest or prettiest by any means, but that didn’t bother us — we just go out there and treat every game like it’s our last and leave it all out on the field.”

The Indians also got some advice from past Keller state teams before leaving for Austin.

“Some of the old players and coaches came before we left and they told us about the feelings of going and playing at state, told us that it’s a great experience, and all of a sudden it made it bigger than just us,” said Rogers, who was named title game MVP. “It made it about the legacy of Keller softball, so it’s nice to live up to our prestigious name.”

Birdville (30-10) had a different path to state, making it for the first time.

The Hawks were 7-8 in late March and had lost six straight. They finished 23-2, winning the 5A title game 8-7 over Gregory-Portland.

“It’s something that this team and the community will remember forever,” junior second baseman Gianna Valforte said. “It’s such an unreal feeling, and I am so proud of my team and what we have accomplished.”

Against Gregory-Portland, junior designated hitter Emily Powell had the go-ahead RBI double in the top of the seventh. Junior third baseman Elena Garcia, who was named title game MVP, hit the game-tying solo home run in the sixth. The Hawks trailed 4-0 before their comeback.

“Considering how underestimated our team was at the beginning of the season, it’s a great feeling to know we’ve defied expectations and made it this far,” freshman pitcher Grace Green said. “It’s incredibly exciting to realize we’ve made Birdville history.”

The unranked Hawks defeated No. 1 Frisco and Texas Gatorade Player of the Year, pitcher Maddie MacGrandle, 10-1 in the semifinals on Friday.

“It’s absolutely insane. It kind of puts the cherry on top,” senior catcher McKenna Moore said. “We deserved it as a team, we worked so hard every single day in every single practice, and it’s been an honor to play for [Birdville].”

Junior first baseman Calie Burris hit a home run on Friday and Green (21-5) got the win in both games.

“Everyone doubted us coming into the state tournament. We were the underdogs, but we never thought we were going to lose,” Burris said. “We always had a positive mindset about it all. We went out and played our game as a family and took it all the way.”

Valforte batted 7 for 9 in Austin, setting a 5A record for most hits in a single tournament. Her .778 batting average ranks second all-time, and she was 4 for 4 in the semifinals, becoming the third player in 5A state softball history to have four hits in a single state tournament game.

Rogers, Henderson, Woodall and freshman center fielder Amanda Desario were named to the 6A state all-tournament team.

Green, Burris, Garcia, Valforte and sophomore outfielder Maygan Paul were named to the 5A state all-tournament team.