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No joy in ‘Mudville’

The dugout open and waiting for Pirates to enter, but the condition of the field was not good for the rescheduled game on Saturday.The dugout open and waiting for Pirates to enter, but the condition of the field was not good for the rescheduled game on Saturday.

by Mark Anderson

SHEPHERD (a.k.a “Mudville”)—In the year 1888, Ernest Thayer authored a very famous poem called “Casey at the Bat.” The last two lines are the infamous words, “There is no joy in Mudville; mighty Casey has struck out.”

If Ernest Thayer had lived in Shepherd, Texas over this past week, the poem would not have had such a dramatic ending. After the spring deluge of 2016, Thayer’s words might well have been, “There is no joy in Mudville; a wet field won’t let Cody Crowder bat.” Yes, Thayer would probably have written it better, but this writer makes no claim to being a poet.

The deluge of 2016, which began a week ago Sunday, dropped eight inches of rain onto the baseball field in Shepherd, Texas. While rumors of players paddling life rafts on the field are unsubstantiated, the fact is, the baseball field is a royal mess. The rain did not let up this week. A game was rescheduled for Saturday at Shepherd against Liberty. Saturday may have been the prettiest day for a baseball game this entire calendar year. Because of the rain, and the wet field, the game was cancelled—again.

There is a good chance, that if polled, the Shepherd Pirates would all agree on one thing right now. If there is anyone in Shepherd praying for rain—make that anyone in Texas—please stop. Now. The rain certainly was not stopping.
There are some benefits to all this rain, however. The first benefit is to the field itself. The grass has not been greener the entire spring as it is right now. In that respect, the field is beautiful.

A second benefit is to the players themselves, at least in the short term. The pitching staff has been beleaguered with sore arms, and pitching has been as thin as ice in a glass of warm tea in Texas in mid-July. This week off may give at least one of the ailing pitchers the extra week needed to recover.

Just as surely as there are benefits, there are also drawbacks to all of this rain for the Pirates. The first drawback may come in the form of timing. Hitting in particularly is about timing. With a week off, and players not able to hit live pitching, whatever sense of timing they may or may not have had may evaporate when—or if—play resumes Monday.

The bigger drawback, however, is the effect on the scheduling of the rest of the season. In an effort to not lose too much ground to the deluge, the Pirates are scheduled to play not two, but three games this week: Liberty on Monday, Splendora on Wednesday, and Huffman on Friday.

That schedule is rather tentative at best at this writing. Sunday brought a bit more rain—and the possibility of yet another rainout—to the Shepherd area. If those rains are as heavy as what Houston experienced earlier in the day, the chances of the field being ready for play Monday are very slim, and that is stating it very optimistically at best.

There’s little doubt the Pirates are looking for the life preservers for this 2016 season, both literally and figuratively. There’s not enough drying element in Shepherd to keep up with this deluge, which seems to have a “will” to continue. Hopefully, the monsoons will pass by Mudville soon enough for the Pirates to salvage what is left of their season.

Right now, there is no joy in Mudville, for Cody cannot come to bat. Hopefully, that will change soon. When it does, a word of advice to those attending the games: bring insect repellent. Remember, Noah forgot to swat the two mosquitoes on the Ark. As wet as that baseball field has been, it is an absolute certainty there will be more than two of them there.

That is what happens here in Texas when baseball fields get flooded and games get cancelled. It is about the only certainty going forward for the rest of the 2016 Pirate season.

It may not get much better. What is the forecast for Wednesday and Friday? You guessed it—rain and more rain.
Welcome to Mudville.

Trojans take Pirates in extra innings

By Charles Ballard
San Jacinto News Sports Reporter

A bit inside.  Dawson Bennett, second baseman for the Trojans keeps an eye on Holloway’s low inside pitch.  (Photo by Charles Ballard)A bit inside. Dawson Bennett, second baseman for the Trojans keeps an eye on Holloway’s low inside pitch. (Photo by Charles Ballard)COLDSPRING: Baseball -The Coldspring Trojans hosted the Shepherd Pirates, in a re-match of earlier in the season. Coach Sloan said, “We are just going to play good baseball with nothing special on the game plan.” Well, it worked to a “T”, the Trojans took the Pirates in a very close district match up with a 4 to 3 win in the late innings of the game.

Dominique Richie, pitcher for the Trojans got the first batter for Shepherd, Royce See hit a towering fly ball to the short stop and Richie gets the first Pirate out. After throwing three straight balls, which were close, but just a bit off plate, he sends Shepherds Crowder to first base with a base on balls. A Shepherd runner is now on base, and things tighten up just a little bit. With Richie trying to settle in he throws a pitch just a little too outside for Casey Moore, the Trojan Catcher to stop, and Crowder takes second on a pass ball. Shepherd’s Reeves, now at bat hits one just inside second base and records the second out of the inning. A second pass ball to the Catcher sends Crowder to third in scoring position. Richie during a stretch sends another fast ball past the catcher and Crowder walks across the base for the first score of the night. Shepherd 1 Coldspring 0.
It wasn’t until the third inning, that Coldspring bats lite the sky. Dillon Bennett, Center Fielder for the Trojans steps in to the batter’s box with one thing on his mind, “I have to get on base”. Ball one is called by “Blue”, Dillon steps out of the batter’s box and gets the call from Coach Sloan. Dillon hits a towering fly just outside the park but is foul. All Dillon had to do is just straighten the last hit out and he is in business. The next pitch was in Dillon’s wheel house, he hit it in to deep right field. The ball almost had to file a flight plan with the airport. It did stay in the park; but not by much. Dillon is on with a double. Craig Elanson, is hit by a pitch, and is put on first, Runners are on first and second. Dillon sees a chance to steal third on a pick off pitch and runners are on the corner. The Pirate pitcher sends a pass ball by his catcher and scores Dillon. The game is tied up, but the momentum of the game is clearly in Coldspring advantage. Noah Williams is now the batter and has two strikes on him. Craig steals second and sets up Noah for a good hit. Noah slams a “Texas Leaguer” between second and third just outside the reach of the shortstop and center fielder. Dominque Riche, decides to help his cause by sending a nice hit between second and third. This hit by Richie scores Craig and Noah. The score is now Coldspring 3 and Shepherd 1.
During the Seventh inning the Pirates scored 2 unanswered runs to tie the game up. In the 9th inning the Trojans managed to squeeze one extra run to keep the win at home.

On April 19, the Trojans will visit Tarkington and then on Friday take a trip to Huffman. The Trojans will return home for Senior night, April 26, against Cleveland. And ending the district play in Liberty on April 29. The Trojans are going to have to win several of the remaining games and hope for a little help from other district teams to make the fourth spot in the playoff season. It has been a rough couple of years for the baseball team, three Head Coaches in three years. Each Coach having a new plan of attack to learn. The Trojans have always had a winning attitude and I see no difference in this season. That is the way I see it “From the Dugout”.

Crowder & Pirates turn the ship around

By Mark Anderson, Staff Reporter

Tarkington —The Shepherd Pirates began their quest for the 2016 state playoffs on Monday night when they turned the ship around behind the stellar relief pitching and timely hitting of Cody Crowder to sail away from Tarkington’s prairie with a rather impressive 11-6 win.

The game, originally scheduled for Tuesday, was pushed back to Monday because of what turned out to be an all-too-accurate forecast of the weather.

The game did not start off so well for the visiting Pirates. Josh Cronin started the game on the mound for the Pirates. However, 18 pitches and no outs into the second inning, Cronin had given up four runs. First-year coach Curtis Fox brought in Cody Crowder, an all-tournament selection at the Cleveland Rotary Club Tournament recently, to try and put out the fire on the prairie and the base paths.

Crowder put out the fire in the Longhorn bats. While Cronin had given up 4 hits in one-plus innings of work, Crowder got very stingy, and gave up only two hits the rest of the game.

Crowder’s pitching performance was, in a word, impressive. Crowder pitched 6 innings, giving up only two hits and two walks while corralling 10 Longhorns via the strikeout. Even more amazing was Crowder’s pitch count. It took only 84 pitches to put the Longhorns away.

With Crowder on the mound, the Pirates began to swing the lumber. Down 4-1, the Pirates rallied for 3 runs in the third inning to tie the game, and surged ahead in the fourth inning when they scored 4 more to go up 8-4. They added 2 runs in the top of the fifth inning to go up by a score of 10-4. The Longhorns got to Crowder for the first, last, and only time in the bottom of the fifth to make it 10-6, but the Pirates added another run in the top of the fifth to go up by what would prove to be the final score of 11-6.

The Pirates righted the ship with Crowder on the mound. He muzzled the bellowing Longhorn offense from the first pitch. Because of Crowder’s strong performance on the mound, in the middle innings the Pirates were able to turn it around and eventually sail away from the Longhorns. Crowder was again the key, going 2 for 3 with a double, a triple, 2 walks, and two runs scored on this evening.

This Pirate team, however, is exactly that—a team. While Crowder was instrumental, he could not have saved the ship from sinking in the first district matchup had it not been for his fellow Pirates. One who was a catalyst in this game was Lane Reeves. Reeves went 3 for 5 with 2 walks and 2 runs scored as well.

Another Pirate who contributed to the win on Monday was Colby Holloway. Holloway went two for two with two walks and a run scored, as well as two RBIs on this night. Royce See also made his presence felt with a triple, a walk, and two runs scored on the night, and in true “Pirate” fashion, he also stole a base.

Finally, Josh Cronin may have had a less than stellar outing on the mound, but did contribute at the plate, going two for three, with an RBI and a run scored. Trey Harper also contributed with a hit and a run scored.

With the win, the Pirates are now 8-4 for the season, including a 3-0 record on the road and 1-0 in district play. Both of those records will be tested on Tuesday night as the Pirates travel to Cleveland to face the Cleveland Indians, who have not had much good fortune this season. Their record coming into Tuesday night’s game is 1 win, 4 losses, and a draw. Game time in Cleveland Tuesday night is at 7 pm.

Keel sets sail for new coaching position

Shepherd High School former head coach and athletic director Chip Keel.Shepherd High School former head coach and athletic director Chip Keel.

By Mark Anderson
Sports Reporter

This past week, shock reverberated down the halls of Shepherd High School as head coach and athletic director Chip Keel resigned his position after four seasons to become the head coach and athletic director at Rusk High School.

As Isaiah Moye said, “I’m very surprised.” For Coach Keel, it simply was an opportunity he could not pass up.“I originally saw the facilities and I saw the way things were headed,” Coach Keel told The San Jacinto News-Times in an exclusive interview late Sunday evening. “I felt really good about the program and the way things were headed.”

“He noticed the potential in me. I love him for that.”

After going through both an informal process, which included meeting with the superintendent, and the formal process with the Rusk school board, Keel was offered the Athletic Director job.

Offensive coordinator Miles Robinson has been named interim athletic director for Shepherd high School, replacing Keel until a permanent successor—which does not exclude Robinson, by the way—can be found. Shepherd must now go through the process of posting that job for 14 days and then begin the search for Keel’s replacement, whether that be from within the program or outside it.

Coach Keel came to Shepherd in 2012, replacing Coach Bob Jones after an abysmal season in 2011. He moved Tyler Schlittenhardt from quarterback to wide receiver, and inserted senior Cody Everitt as the starting quarterback. The results spoke for themselves, as both players played well. Shepherd lost an epic game to Cleveland in overtime, and missed out on the playoffs.

In 2013, two young, unproven quarterbacks named Royce See and Zach Truelove began seeing time. Shepherd was one win away—and again, they lost to the Indians, this time in Cleveland. This time, the score was not close, and the result of being left out of the playoffs stung the Pirates and Coach Keel.

In 2014, Shepherd took out their frustrations on the Indians in the opening game of the season at “The Field of Pain,” when they handed the Indians a 34-0 loss. That victory propelled the Pirates to a great start. The toughest game that year was against Coldspring. The toughest loss of all, however, happened in the playoffs. Only a few plays separated Mexia and Shepherd on that night.

In what would turn out to be Coach Keel’s last season at Shepherd, Keel’s Pirates came out of the chute like gangbusters, and never slowed down. The moment of truth for Keel and the Pirates came when Royce See, who had been the starting quarterback, severely sprained his ankle. Zach Truelove, who had battled for the starting job each of the last few years, was inserted as the starter. Truelove began having good success, and led the Pirates to victory.

When See was healthy, Keel was faced with what outsiders saw as a difficult decision. However, Royce See made the decision to keep Truelove as the starting quarterback an easy one.

“My whole life I’ve never been a selfish player and he made it clear to me that I was an instant impact wherever they put me,” See, the future Bearkat, said. “When I came back Zach was playing at his best and the offense was really on a roll shifting from more of a run style offense before I got hurt to more of a passing style.” See understood that he could be an impact player at wide receiver. And See pointed out, “With me at receiver [it] gave the offense another go to threat to air out the ball.”

That decision—which mirrored the Schlittenhardt/Everitt decision four years before—paid big dividends for Shepherd the rest of the way out. With See and Truelove, the dividends were even bigger in reaching the state playoffs for the second year in a row—with the best record in the last 11 years, and probably much further back than that.
Coach Keel made an impact on his players in the four years he was at Shepherd. Royce See explained that impact was both on and off the field.

“He was a huge part of our success,” See told the News-Times. “From the time I got into high school my freshman year our program took a huge change in the way we did things—not only because of him but the rest of the coaching staff too.”
See shared that what brought change was the vision Keel had for Shepherd athletics. “Me and the rest of my senior class bought into the vision that they had for us,” See said late this week. “As him being the AD and the head coach everything ran through him.”

Keel’s impact did not stop on the field, however. “I personally looked up to him. He’s always been a great role model no matter what anyone says about him,” Royce said. “He’s always been someone that you could come to at any time for anything, and I can’t think of one time that he hasn’t.”

Royce summed up his feelings about Coach Keel’s impact when he said, “He’s the type of guy that everyone looks up to. I hate to see him leave, but he has definitely positively impacted not only our athletic program, but our community as well.”
Isaiah Moye also felt the impact of Coach Keel. “He noticed the potential in me. I love him for that.” Moye said.
Players felt that Coach Keel had made an impact on them. However, Coach Keel felt he had been impacted by Shepherd itself. “Shepherd made an impact on me,” Coach Keel said late Sunday evening.

The elephant in the room now is the future of Shepherd athletics. In closing, Keel was asked if he felt that he had laid a good foundation for Shepherd High athletics going forward.

“The last four years have been the moist successful years ever in Shepherd history,” Keel said. He pointed to the back-to back playoff appearances in football, as well as playoff appearances in other sports as well. “Depending on what choice they make for their next coach, the future is still bright for Shepherd.”

Wheatley Wildcats Stop Coldspring Trojans

Baxter Smith (5) Senior Guard drives around Jeremy Jones of Wheatley during the Friday night Area Playoff Game. Baxter Smith (5) Senior Guard drives around Jeremy Jones of Wheatley during the Friday night Area Playoff Game.

By Charles Ballard
San Jacinto News-Times
Sports Reporter

Atascocita - Coldspring ended their 2016 playoff run against the Wheatley Wildcats, Friday night at Atascocita High School in the Area Play off. After bringing home the “Bi-District” title against Bridge City with a win of 57 – 54 the Trojans fell just a tad short against the Wheatley Wildcats with a score of 73 to 58.

Coldspring posted 15 points to Wheatley’s 24 points during the first period, which kind of set the momentum in the Wildcats court. From the tipoff to the final buzzer, the Trojans played one of the best games that I have ever seen, a Trojan team play. However, the well-oiled machine of the Wildcats, no stranger to the playoff scene, came to play.

At the tipoff, the Wildcats scored 3 baskets within the first few seconds of the game that really moved the momentum in the Wildcats favor. After the Trojans managed to regroup and started their run, they had an uphill battle to perform.

The second period showed promise for the Trojans as they managed to match shot for shot against the Wildcats, scoring 11 points to Wheatley’s 11 points. Trey Cole, point guard for the Trojans managed a nice 3 buckets and one shot from downtown. After the half the Wildcats came out with fire in their eyes posting 23 points to Coldspring’s 15.

The Trojans went in at the half and regrouped their strategy, but then again so did the Wildcats. The fourth quarter was a lot more like the “Fighting Trojans” but the defense of the Wildcats manage to stop the run and held the Trojans to only 17 points. Which was better than Wheatley’s 15 points. The point spread was just too far to recover during the last few minutes of the game. Coldspring retained the “Bi-District” title and walked away with “Area-Qualifier”.

Folks, it was a loss but it was only a loss in points. The Trojans played one of the best games that I have seen in many, many years. They did come to play. Sometimes the opponent is just a little better than the home team. I normally would say that the winner just wanted the win a little more than the opponent. However, this time I can say without a doubt that the Trojans wanted this win more than I have ever seen. It was just not in the cards for the Trojans. The Trojans will be moved to the 3A division next year and it will not be any easier than the 4A division. The only good item in the basket is the schools that we will be playing are more on the Coldspring size, and this should be a lot more in Coldspring’s level.

Congratulations to the Coldspring Trojans and the Lady Trojans for making the 2016 playoff season, and that is the way I see it “Above the Rim”

Basketball Trainers Dream Comes True

The Coldspring Trojan basketball team helped make Splendora senior Zach Mills’ dream come true during the game against Splendora on Tuesday, Feb. 9. Pictured from left to right, back row:  Edward Hayes, Cadarrius “Tunk” Harrison, Ave-on “Red” Gilbert, and Brett Lewis; front row: Anthony Richard, Terrance Griffin, Zach Mills (Splendora), Trey Cole, Baxter Smith and Coach Devers. (Photo by Jason Vela)The Coldspring Trojan basketball team helped make Splendora senior Zach Mills’ dream come true during the game against Splendora on Tuesday, Feb. 9. Pictured from left to right, back row:  Edward Hayes, Cadarrius “Tunk” Harrison, Ave-on “Red” Gilbert, and Brett Lewis; front row: Anthony Richard, Terrance Griffin, Zach Mills (Splendora), Trey Cole, Baxter Smith and Coach Devers. (Photo by Jason Vela)

The Coldspring Trojan varsity basketball players and the Splendora Wildcats set aside the spirit of competition for the spirit of cooperation to help make a Splendora senior’s dream come true on Tuesday, Feb. 9.

Zach Mills, a Splendora senior trainer, loves the game of basketball but has never been able to play as a result of his battle with cancer. Splendora Basketball Coach Jason Vela wanted to see that changed.

“On Tuesday night, Coach Vela put a plan into action so that Zach could have his time to shine, and the Coldspring basketball coaches/athletes did a great job in helping make it possible,” wrote Splendora Athletic Director Marcus Schulz in a thank-you email to COCISD coaches and administrators.

Schulz said Zach went into the game on two separate occasions and was able to score 4 pts on the night. “The best part was seeing the Coldspring coaches/athletes come over after the game to congratulate Zach,” wrote Schultz. “The game was more than just a game Tuesday night!!! Thank You!”

Coach Jason Vela wrote a letter to the Trojan Varsity players, as well:

“Most of you probably don’t know this, but I have been coaching against Coldspring for the last 15 years here at Splendora. Over those years I have been fortunate to win a few times (not many but a few) and I have had some tough losses. Never have I driven home after one of those games feeling like both teams won (until) last night. Everybody won last night because sometimes winning is more than what is on the scoreboard. You were part of something special and you handled it with great class. Zach loves the game of Basketball probably as much or more than you and I. He fulfilled his dream last night... Thank you again for everything. I will be your number 1 fan the rest of this season.”

Congratulations to Zach Mills, and kudos to the basketball coaches and players for both teams, for showing the true spirit of sportsmanship.