Houston HS baseball/softball primer: March 17
1. Eagles soaring; Mustangs rising
Atascocita is one of the highest-ranked baseball teams from Greater Houston, checking in at No. 5 in the Texas High School Baseball Class 6A Top 25 this week. The Eagles made the state tournament for the first time three years ago and nearly returned last year after winning the District 16-6A title, but their Region II-6A final with Dallas Jesuit was reduced from a best-of-three series to one game by weather, and the Rangers won 9-1 en route to their first state championship. Now, after going 12-3 in non-district, they’re looking for another deep run in their new Region III home - but district rival Kingwood has plans of its own. The unranked Mustangs beat Atascocita 3-2 in their 21-6A opener Tuesday, with pitcher Cody Lancaster earning the win and Masyn Winn picking up the save. The game served notice that coach Kelly Mead’s club will have a say in Region III, too, but don’t count out the Eagles. With pitchers Alden Blest and Jonathan Petsch and shortstop Alerick Soularie leading the way, they’ll still be a tough out in the playoffs. Kingwood (12-2, 1-0) and Atascocita meet again April 7 at Kingwood.
2. Longhorns land in 6A
Both teams will have to deal with another Region III-6A newcomer, George Ranch, in the playoffs. The Longhorns are the No. 1 6A team in the state in their first season after making the leap from 5A, where they made the state tournament in 2014. Led by OF Dylan Rock (UTSA), P Joseph Menefee (Texas A&M), P/3B Ty Abraham (Houston) and P Cole McMillan (Houston), the loaded Longhorns are 16-1 overall and 1-0 in 23-6A after opening district with a 3-0 win over Hastings. Their only loss was a 3-1 setback to Stratford, which they beat earlier in the year, at the Lamar Consolidated ISD tournament, and they own wins over No. 8 Cy Ranch (5-4), No. 14 Klein (3-0) and No. 16 Katy (7-0).
3. Prether, Tigers silence War Eagles
Like Atascocita in 21-6A, Oak Ridge, another of Houston’s state-ranked clubs, struggled in its District 12-6A opener against a rival, falling 2-0 to unranked Conroe on the road. The 17th-ranked War Eagles made the regional semis last year - also falling to Dallas Jesuit - but lost for the third time in five games Tuesday, with the Tigers’ Marshall Prether allowing only one hit in a complete-game shutout. The other two losses were against No. 20 Arlington Martin (9-3) and Kingwood (3-1), which probably should be state-ranked next week.
4. More H-town dominance
Sam Houston State coach Matt Deggs knows how much talent is Houston. He’s mining the area to build a baseball behemoth in Huntsville, and the current high school state rankings reflect the area’s reputation as a powerhouse on the diamond. Greater Houston is home to nearly half of the top 25 6A teams, including No. 4 Travis, No. 6 Deer Park, No. 9 Kempner, No. 11 The Woodlands and No. 13 Lamar, and three state-ranked 5As – No. 4 Tomball, No. 13 Magnolia and No. 18 Crosby.
5. Eagles soaring in softball, too
Atascocita also is home to the state’s No. 1 softball team in the Texas Girls Coaches Association 6A poll. The Eagles, who made the state tourney for the first time last season, also dropped their 21-6A opener - also to rival Kingwood by a 12-1 score - and beat Summer Creek 6-2 on Tuesday for their third straight win, sending them to 12-1, 3-1. Kimber Neal homered in the game, and Emery Stanush and Tierrah Williams combined for the victory in the circle.
6. Haack, Tigers eyeing playoffs
Katy, the 2015 6A champ, returned to the regional finals last year without their veteran skipper, Kalum Haack, who missed their entire postseason run with nerve pain in his back that required surgery. With Haack back in the dugout this season, the third-ranked Tigers are 19-3 overall and 4-0 in 19-6A after rolling Seven Lakes (15-0) and Morton Ranch (14-1) last week – and seeking another extended stay in the playoffs.
7. Best of the rest
7?Dickinson is right behind Atascocita and Katy in the 6A softball rankings, checking in at No. 6 this week. Spring is 16th, Kingwood is No. 18 and Pearland is tied for 20th. The Houston area also is home to the No. 1 5A team in Foster. The 5A poll includes No. 5 Angleton, No. 10 Crosby, No. 11 Terry, No. 12 Barbers Hill, No. 14 Willis, No. 15 Splendora and No. 19 Dayton.
8. Oak Ridge vs. The Woodlands baseball, 7 p.m. Friday, The Woodlands
The War Eagles look to bounce back from the district-opening loss against the Highlanders, who started 12-6A play with an 8-4 win over Montgomery.
9. Brenham vs. Tomball Memorial baseball, 7 p.m. Tuesday, Tomball Memorial
The Wildcats, regional finalists two years ago after beating Brenham in the quarterfinals, take on the Cubs, who last made the regional finals three years ago, in a key 20-5A game.
10. Dayton vs. Barbers Hill softball,6:15 p.m. Tuesday, Barbers Hill
The two state-ranked rivals collide for the first time this season in their second to last game in the first round of 21-5A play. The Eagles swept the series last year, 10-0 and 2-1.