Keller bats, MLB prospect knock off Strake Jesuit to send Indians to state championship

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Keller used a big inning and got a stellar performance on the mound from ace Eric Hammond, and the Indians beat Houston Strake Jesuit, 7-1, in a Class 6A state semifinal game Friday at Dell Diamond.

The Indians (36-7) will play in their first UIL baseball state championship game, 4 p.m. Saturday against the winner of Friday night’s semifinal between Rockwall-Heath and Smithson Valley.

The program is making its first appearance at the state tournament since 1991.

Keller put the pressure on in the bottom of the first inning when Griffin Barton and Aidan Connors led off the Indian bats with back-to-back doubles. Barton advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored when Connors hit a pitch that just stayed inside the first-base line.

But the Indians couldn’t grow the lead stranding two runners.

Strake Jesuit (27-13-1) tied the game in the top of the second inning when Ryan Montgomery hit a one-out single that plated Jacob Dorman on a designed hit-and-run from second base.

The Indians were in for another monster inning in the third, but again would settle for a single run. However, Keller regained the lead when it loaded the bases before the first out and Barton scored from third on a deep sac fly to center from Mike Dattalo.

Keller finally had a big inning with a four-run fourth to balloon its advantage to 6-1.

Todd Baffa led off with a single and scored from first on a deep RBI double from Missouri signee Whit Thoms. Courtesy runner Colten Vargas would score from third on an RBI sac fly to left from Connors.

Two Jesuit errors on the same play gave Keller a 5-1 lead and Gray Rowlett scored from second base following an RBI single to right field by Dattalo.

Jesuit put the heat on Hammond in the top of the fifth loading the bases, but Hammond got out of the jam with a pop fly to center that kept it a five-run margin.

Barton, who also walked twice, got on base for a fourth time and extended the lead with an RBI single in the bottom of the fifth that scored Vargas to make it 7-1.

Barton scored three times. Dattalo and Connors each had two hits and two RBI.

Hammond, who is signed to USC but an MLB draft prospect, pitched six strong innings allowing four hits and an unearned run with three walks and nine strikeouts in his final high school outing.

Wichita State signee Robert Cranz is the projected starter on Saturday for Keller.