Matt Strasen - Special Contributor BASEBALL PLAYOFF PREVIEW: With the Texas high school baseball playoffs set to get underway, SportsDayHS staff writer Corbett Smith offers every crucial detail you need to know when it comes to Dallas-area teams.
Stephen M. Keller - Special Contributor TOP STORY: Three in a row for D-FW? – It’s been two straight seasons that a Dallas-Fort Worth area team has won a state title: Class 3A Kennedale (pictured) in 2011 and 4A Rockwall-Heath in 2012. Considering the area’s wealth of athletic success, that seems little to crow about. But North Texas hasn’t had many UIL baseball titles in the last decade, with just four since 2003. Ditto in TAPPS, which hasn’t had a D-FW champion since Argyle Liberty Christian in 2009. If there is going to be another champion, that team will come from off the pace; in the final THSBCA rankings, no area team in any class is ranked higher than fourth.
ERICH SCHLEGEL - Special Contributor TOP STORY: 5A title drought – In 2008, Plano West (pictured) won the Class 5A title, beating Southlake Carroll in the final. Since then, no area 5A team has made the UIL final, much less brought home the crown. Arlington Martin made the state tournament last season but was held to three hits in a 6-0 semifinal loss to eventual champion Cy Ranch. How deep is the area’s drought in the state’s largest classification? Including West and Carroll in 2008, just four area teams have made the final in the last decade. There have been four seasons during that stretch (2006, ’07, ’09, ’11) where no D-FW area 5A team made the state tournament.
Staff photos TOP STORY: Up and at ’em – Behind stalwarts Jake Thompson (pictured, at left) and Jovan Hernandez (right), Rockwall-Heath won last year’s 4A title — the first in the school’s short history. Repeating as champion will be a much tougher task, however, as Thompson and Hernandez graduated and Heath moved up to 5A in the 2012-14 alignment. Historically, it doesn’t look promising for Heath (22-9). No UIL program has won a state title then moved up in classification and won again. Additionally, the last time a team won back-to-back titles was 2003, when Fort Bend Elkins won its second-straight 5A title.
John F. Rhodes - Special Contributor HITTER TO WATCH: Bret Boswell, Rockwall-Heath – Not only is the Texas signee one of the area’s most complete hitters, batting .528 with nine home runs and 13 doubles, but coach Greg Harvey called the shortstop’s defense some of the best he’s seen at the high school level.
courtesy HITTER TO WATCH: Billy McKinney, Plano West – The senior outfielder will probably be the first area high school player taken in June’s MLB amateur draft. Known for his short, clean left-handed swing, McKinney was recently called by Baseball America’s Jim Callis “one of the best pure HS hitters in this draft.” The TCU signee has a .624 on-base percentage, with just three strikeouts this season.
Vernon Bryant - Staff Photographer HITTER TO WATCH: Cody Thomas, Colleyville Heritage – Signed with Oklahoma as a quarterback and baseball player, Thomas might not get to Norman. Projected as a fourth- or fifth-round draft pick, Thomas (6-4, 220) is a dynamic hitter, leading 5A area players with 14 home runs and 45 RBIs.
Mark M. Hancock - PITCHER TO WATCH: Tyler Alexander, Southlake Carroll – A rare four-year varsity player for Carroll, Alexander threw a no-hitter against Keller Fossil Ridge in his last start. The TCU signee is 8-0 with an area-best 0.35 ERA, 113 strikeouts and just 13 walks in 60 innings.
David Minton - Chronicle PITCHER TO WATCH: Drew Gooch, Argyle – Brought up from JV as a freshman, Gooch (below) was stellar for Argyle in the 2011 playoffs, winning three starts. Now a junior, the lefty — a TCU pledge — has cemented himself at the head of Argyle’s rotation. This season, he is 9-1, with a 0.96 ERA, 95 strikeouts and a save.
File PITCHER TO WATCH: Hayden Parker, Frisco Liberty – The BYU signee is a jack-of-all-trades for Liberty (18-8-2). He’s a quality left-hander, going 5-2 with a 1.47 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 38 innings, and a speedy center fielder, hitting .376 with 36 steals. Parker could face Forney ace Cody Tyler, a Wichita State signee, in bi-district.
Steve Hamm - Special Contributor PITCHER TO WATCH: Matt Wilson, Highland Park – While perennial power Highland Park (18-13) hasn’t found its usual dominance this season, Wilson has been a force. The Oklahoma State signee is 7-3 with a sub-1.00 ERA, 94 strikeouts and 15 walks.
Matt Strasen - Special Contributor TEAM TO WATCH: Arlington Martin – A talented core returns from last year’s 5A semifinalists. Turner Larkins (pictured), a power-throwing right-hander, gives Martin (26-6-1) a legitimate ace (8-0, 1.06 ERA, 81 strikeouts in 461/3 innings), while outfielders Drew Dowdy (UT-Arlington), Anthony Lyons (Texas Tech) and Matt Waller are a veteran group.
Steve Hamm - Special Contributor TEAM TO WATCH: Flower Mound – Danny Wallace’s first season at the helm couldn’t have gone better. After turning Georgetown into a perennial playoff team in Central Texas, the Seagoville grad led Flower Mound (30-3) to an undefeated district season in a difficult 5-5A — this despite losing the talented trio of Cody Gunter, Jack Moffit and Andrew Vinson. Staff ace Seth Jordan (8-0, 1.13 ERA, eight complete games) has been a catalyst for Flower Mound’s 20-game winning streak.
Mark Rogers - Telegram/Mar TEAM TO WATCH: Southlake Carroll – Led by Texas A&M football signee Kenny Hill (.481, 26 RBIs), Carroll (26-4) will try to get back to Round Rock for the first time since 2008, after losing in the regional final to Arlington Martin a year ago. Few pitching staffs are as deep as Carroll’s, with Alexander, Texas Tech signee Sean Thompson and sophomore Ben Leeper.
Stewart F. House - Special Contributor TEAM TO WATCH: McKinney North – Behind three pitchers who hadn’t thrown a varsity pitch, McKinney North (24-1) had its best regular season, finishing ninth in the final THSBCA rankings. Senior right-hander Anthony Herrera (pictured) — also the team’s second baseman and top hitter — will provide an interesting challenge in relief, throwing submarine style to great effect (3-0, 10 saves, 0.00 ERA, 31 strikeouts in 24 innings).
David Minton - DRC TEAM TO WATCH: Argyle – There’s no question that Region II has been the seat of power in Class 3A in the last few years, with three of the last four champions. Argyle (26-3) has been in the mix — making the regional final two of the last three seasons. This year’s team is well-balanced, with nine players with 15 or more RBIs, including Davis Coghlan (.506, six triples, 26 RBIs).
Steve Hamm - Special Contributor NOTABLE MATCHUP: Coppell vs. Colleyville Heritage – Coppell (22-7-1) has five seniors signed with Division I programs, including right-handers Jake Elliott (pictured, Oklahoma) and Austin Gardner (Wichita State). Heritage (19-12-1) is led by three-year starters Cody Thomas, Preston Palmeiro and Christian Gonzales.
Steve Hamm - Special Contributor NOTABLE MATCHUP: Plano vs. Lake Highlands – Both are tradition-rich programs. Plano (19-13) finished in a three-way tie for the 10-5A title, losing to Plano West in a playoff for the top seed. Third baseman Michael Ketchmark (pictured; .463, five HR, 26 RBIs, 29 steals) is a standout for Lake Highlands (21-9).
John F. Rhodes - Special Contributor NOTABLE MATCHUP: Corsicana vs. Waxahachie – There’s a lot of history between the programs, former district foes. Corsicana has won five of the last six meetings. Waxahachie swept the season series in 2008, when it made the 4A final behind ace Colton Cain (pictured).
Steve Hamm - Special Contributor DID YOU KNOW? Cameron Smiths will battle it out in the Hillcrest/Molina matchup in the first round of the 4A Region II playoffs. An honorable mention all-state selection last season, Hillcrest senior third baseman Cameron Smith (pictured) has nine home runs this season, most among area 4A players. He’s helped lead Hillcrest to its third-straight district title. Molina junior infielder Cameron Smith — a three-sport athlete — is batting .474, among the area 4A leaders and 12 points behind Hillcrest’s Smith.
Ian C. Bates - Staff Photographer DID YOU KNOW? W.T. White coach David Shepherd just keeps winning. The Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer has been at W.T. White since 1980, and during his tenure, Shepherd has piled up 31 consecutive playoff appearances. This season, W.T. White (22-11) won a share of the 9-5A title but lost to Jesuit in a playoff for the district’s top seed. White will face Allen (18-9-2) in a three-game series in the bi-district round.
Stewart F. House - Special Contributor DID YOU KNOW? Wylie East’s Jesse Brubaker does not fit into the mold of a stereotypical center fielder. Instead of being a lithe speedster, the 6-4 Brubaker has weighed up to 260 pounds this school year, thanks to stepping up his weight training. Signed with Tulsa for football, Brubaker was a two-way star for Wylie East’s football team on the defensive line and at tight end — winning the District 13-4A utility player of the year honor. He’s a pretty good baseball player, too, leading Wylie East (24-4-1) in hits, home runs, batting average and RBIs.
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