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Varsity Eagles Clinch State Title!

Posted: Wednesday, May 25, 2016 8:40 pm

HOUSTON — Just 20 days prior to Wednesday’s TAPPS 1A/2A state championship game, Tomball Rosehill Christian was on the brink of elimination in the first round of the playoffs.

A late rally in that game catapulted the Eagles into an incredible run that was capped with a first state title in program history.

Covenant Christian pulled to within two runs in the fourth inning, but a three-run bomb by Jacob Cooper helped Rosehill pull away for a 9-2 victory at the Baseball USA complex.

Rosehill coach Robert Cooper reflected back on that May 5 game with San Antonio Lutheran afterwards. The Eagles trailed 3-2 in the sixth inning of the first-round playoff. With two outs, Ryan McWhirter doubled, and Zach Godin survived a lengthy at-bat. And then Justin Shoemaker drove them both him and later scored himself on a stolen base.

“I didn’t think we would get out of the first round of the playoffs,” Cooper said. “And when we did, our offense just started rolling.”

The state championship game appearance was a first for Covenant Christian since it claimed a state title in 2002.

The game matched District 6 rivals as the Cougars and Eagles met for the third time this season. Rosehill came in with a 2-0 advantage.

“They’ve always been a tough opponent for us in baseball,” Covenant coach Randy Reynolds said. “Even though they did lose some players last year, they obviously replenished them. They’ve got a good program; they rebuild every year. We knew it was going to be a tough ballgame.”

Rosehill (14-14) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first and never relinquished that lead. Hunter Juneau-Kepp and Godin had back-to-back RBI singles to get the Eagles off to a great start.

That score stood until the third inning when they added another run on an RBI fielder’s choice by Godin.

The Cougars (14-7) got a run back in the top of the fourth as Jacob Casey’s sacrifice fly scored Thomas Breedlove to make it 3-1.

Two fielding errors put Rosehill’s first two batters aboard to start the bottom of the inning. Then a throwing error off a bunt scored Cliff Manning to make it 4-1.

In stepped leadoff man Jacob Cooper, who took a 3-0 pitch and deposited it over the left-field fence to make it 7-1.

“It was huge,” Coach Cooper said. “It was a back-breaker. Jacob has hit four home runs in his career; two have been in the playoffs. Then he hits a three-run bomb in the state championship.”

It ended up being the game-changing hit Rosehill needed.

“We knew he was behind in the count,” Reynolds said. “I knew he was a good hitter and that we didn’t want to get the ball up. We missed, and it didn’t surprise me he was swinging away at 3-0. He squared up on the ball. He’s their best hitter.”

Rosehill added a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth. Godin drove in his third run of the day on an infield single. Cody Smith added a sacrifice fly, which scored Juneau-Kepp.

The Cougars got an RBI double by Ethan Miller in the top of the seventh, but they left the bases loaded to end the game. A day after just accumulating two hits against Watauga Harvest, Covenant stranded eight runners and had six hits.

“We didn’t get the breaks today,” Reynolds said. “We had plenty of scoring opportunities, and weren’t able to plate some balls. They made some great plays that prevented us from scoring runs.”

Reynolds said his team was comfortable with the velocity Shoemaker and Godin were throwing.

“We were a little more patient at the plate,” Reynolds said. “Yesterday, with the slow pitching, they threw at us. We’ve been struggling with that all year. We knew coming in that this was a little bit more our speed. We squared up on some balls today, but again, the breaks didn’t go our way.”

Both Eagle pitchers threw Tuesday when they beat Bryan Brazos Christian in the semifinals.

Shoemaker went four innings with five strikeouts while Godin went the final three and allowed just one hit.

“We are not a team that pitches,” Cooper said. “Shoemaker, he would probably be the first to admit he’s not a pitcher. Zach is just learning how to pitch. He throws hard, but he’s young. We just roll with the same rotation.”

After losing a good core of seniors to graduation last spring, the Eagles came back and played a difficult schedule early. But Cooper said his team showed signs of improvement when district play started.

“These guys believe in themselves,” Cooper said. “They trust each other, and they love each other. If I could bottle that, I wouldn’t be coaching at Rosehill. I would be coaching at Minute Maid [Park] or something.”

On the other side of the field, Reynolds was just as proud of his team.

“We lost a bunch of seniors last year,” he said. “We didn’t have super high expectations from others. But I knew we had a lot of talent. These guys grew together as a team and played well together all year long. We put together a great playoff run, and nobody expected us to do that. In that regard, I’m very, very proud of our guys.”

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