It is often hopefully believed that success is entirely within the control of the team seeking it. That a team can win based solely on their hard work and effectiveness in establishing a culture. These long summer and fall workouts are what lead to bountiful springs.
There is some truth in that. Victories and championships are probably not achievable without this self-imposed effort and drive.
But does that paint the most accurate picture? Maybe not. Because when Jeremy Fatheree was asked where his Northwest Eaton baseball program would be if he were not lined up in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Texas, he spoke honestly.
“We wouldn’t be here,” the Eaton coach said. Opened in 2015, Eaton’s won the 5A state championship in 2018 before upgrading to 6A the following year. “Getting your teeth kicked in the first year, seeing that people aren’t afraid of you and it doesn’t matter if you have a ring. They’ll come out and beat you up if you let them.
“We would be a playoff team [in a weaker district], but we would be smoked in the first round every year and we would be finished. We are happy not to be a big fish in a small pond.
Texas High School Baseball State Monday’s 6A Ranking include three District 4-6A teams: No. 6 Keller (13-5, 5-1 District 4-6A), No. 7 Southlake Carroll (17-6, 4-2 District 4-6A) and No. 24 North -West Eaton (14-5, 4-2 District 4-6A). All three are listed in The Dallas Morning News area 6A top 10.
District teammates Keller Timber Creek (12-7) and Trophy Club Byron Nelson (10-4-1) have each already passed the double-digit win mark.
District 6-6A (#4 Flower Mound Marcus, #12 Coppell and #17 Flower Mound) and District 26-6A (#3 Lake Travis, #11 Austin Westlake and #22 Austin Bowie) are the only other districts with three teams in the top 25.
“There are no easy choices, especially in this district,” Keller coach Rob Stramp said. “It’s really very heavy.”
Says Fatheree: “Other coaches have told me our district is the best. It’s the deepest, it’s the best.
In non-district play, the three state-ranked teams from District 4-6A have a combined 4-1 record against the state-ranked teams from District 6-6A. Carroll lost to Lake Travis 8-5 on Saturday in the only ranked District 4-6A/District 26-6A crossover game of the season.
Keller (7-2), Carroll (5-3) and Eaton (1-4) are 13-9 combined against 6A-rated opponents this season, although four of those nine losses have come against each other.
“I think it’s definitely up there with the best of them,” said Southlake Carroll senior Owen Proksch, a Duke signee. “Along with us, Keller, Eaton and Byron, it’s definitely one of the best.”
Want proof of District 4-6A’s prestige? Stramp will tell you last year’s playoffs.
Each of the four District 4-6A teams that qualified for last year’s playoffs won their first-round series. Keller advanced to the 6A State Championship Game and defeated Carroll in the Regional Finals and Eaton in the Regional Quarterfinals. Trophy Club Byron Nelson lost to Odessa Permian in the zonal round.
Carroll won back-to-back state titles in 2018 and 2019. After a 6-16 inaugural season at Tier 6A in 2019, Eaton went 29-12 in his first full season at the state’s highest ranking in the spring. last.
Byron Nelson has won 20 or more games five times in the past nine years (including a 36-10 result in 2015) and Timber Creek went 29-11 in 2018.
“It kind of sets us up for the playoffs,” said Eaton senior Nolan Bushko, an all-district winner as a junior. “With Carroll and Keller and even Byron, these teams are getting better every day. We have to compete with that every Tuesday and Friday night. It kind of sets us up for that playoff atmosphere, so if we get there, we’re ready. It’s kind of like any other day.
These reps help. In the third round of last year’s state tournament, Carroll and Odessa Permian had a win-win third game. Permian fielded pitcher Teo Banks, now a freshman at Tulane, whose fastball worked in the upper 80s and lower 90s.
Carroll won 11-1.
“Our guys were just ready for this, because we had seen this three or four times in the district,” said LSU signing Carroll senior Griffin Herring.
After knocking out Carroll in three games to advance to last year’s title shot, Keller swept his nationally ranked district opponent in late March. There was, understandably, an air of excitement – and heightened confidence – around Keller’s team (which fired just one starter from last year’s team) after back-to-back wins over Carroll .
“Knowing that we can beat Southlake – they were #1 in the state on a few rankings – [it shows] we can beat anyone,” said Keller senior pitcher Zach Erdman, a Texas Tech signee.
Stramp, understanding what lay ahead, feared the emotional high would come back to bite his team.
“Then you turn around and play Eaton,” he said.
Keller lost 1-0 to Eaton last Tuesday – just four days after his second win over Carroll – but turned around on Friday and won 4-1. Even then, Eaton had the tying run at home plate in the top of the seventh inning.
Bushko (who flew to right field to end Eaton’s rally against Keller) won’t forget that if the two meet again in the playoffs.
At this rate, it seems more likely than not that there will be a District 4-6A rematch in May.
“We want this game back from Keller,” said Bushko, a northeast Texas signee. “If it’s Southlake, we want this game back from Southlake. We want to play them, they’re the teams I think we should be playing.
|Team||record 2022||Record 2021 (and end of the playoffs)|
|Keller||13-5||36-8 (State runner-up 6A)|
|Southlake Carroll||17-6||29-18 (Regional Finalist 6A)|
|North West Eaton||14-5||29-12 (6A regional quarter-finalist)|
|Keller Timber Creek||12-7||14-18 (did not qualify for playoffs)|
|Byron Nelson Club Trophy||10-4-1||19-13-3 (finalist zone 6A)|
|Keller Fossil Crest||4-13||9-21 (did not qualify for playoffs)|
|Keller Central||4-13-1||10-20 (did not qualify for playoffs)|
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