By Tony Adams, Sports Editor
Since Belton head coach Eddie Cornblum put together the 2016 schedule, the Highland Park Scotland Yard Classic has stood out to be one of the biggest challenges on the schedule.
Fresh off of their 4-1 performance at the Round Rock Langerhans-Bratcher Tournament, the Belton Tigers Baseball squad will travel to the Dallas-area on Thursday to take on five teams that are all capable of winning state championships.
Belton (7-3) can certainly be included in that category. In their way to start the tournament at 4 p.m. Thursday: MaxPreps Xcellent Top 25 nationally No. 2-ranked/Texas High School Baseball.com’s 6A No. 1-ranked Coppell Cowboys (11-0) on their home diamond, Cowboys Field.
The field gets no easier on Friday, as the venue shifts to historic Scotland Yard on the Highland Park High School campus. The Tigers will play Dallas John Paul II and the Scots (5-3) at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. respectively. On Saturday, the Tigers return to Scotland Yard to play Garland Sachse (8-3) and Lucas Lovejoy (8-3-1) at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
The Saturday doubleheader can be heard on KLTD-FM 101.7, K1017FM.com and on the Radio Pup Application starting at 9:50 a.m. Saturday morning.
Coppell poses pitching challenges for the Tigers, as not one, two or three or even four…but five members of the Cowboys’ pitching staff are Division I commits and are projected to be Major League Baseball draft picks in the 2016 MLB Draft.
Charles King is a senior right-hander who was 6-0 in 2015 with a 1.09 ERA, 47 strikeouts in 38 1/3 innings and has a 95 miles-per-hour fastball. He has signed with Texas Christian University, where former Tigers pitcher Jared Janczak is a redshirt freshman.
Ray Gaither is a senior right-hander who was 1-1 with seven saves in 2015 with a 0.41 ERA, 21 strikeouts in 17 innings and has a 96 miles-per-hour fastball. He has signed with Dallas Baptist University.
Hayden Kettler is a right-handed pitcher and outfield who went 3-1 in 2015 with a 1.07 ERA. 21 strikeouts in 20 innings and has a 92 miles-per-hour fastball and has signed with Baylor. He also hit .281 with eight doubles, three triples, three homers and 20 runs batted in a year ago.
Chris Burdine is a senior right-handed with an 89 miles-per-hour fastball and went 1-1 with three saves, a 1.94 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 18 innings pitched in 2015. He has signed with Oklahoma State.
John Kodros is a junior southpaw verbally committed to LSU. He was 1-0 with 24 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings with a 93 miles-per-hour fastball.
There are plenty of other Cowboys to watch for on offense. But to have five pitchers dealing 89-plus miles-per-hour heat is challenging enough. Coppell has 11 players either signed or verbally committed to Division I colleges and universities.
Belton has played Midland once in 2016, a 7-2 loss at the Round Rock Hardball Classic two weeks ago in Leander. The loss was one of three for the Tigers this season.
The Tigers has not played John Paul II in Highland Park at the Scotland Yard Classic.
The Belton-Highland Park game was rained out last year at Scotland Yard. Garland Sachse could be a team that Belton sees in the bi-district playoffs in May, depending on how both teams fare.
Lovejoy is the only team that Belton will face in the tournament that is not Class 6A, as they play in District 10-5A, the same district that bred Class 5A champion Prosper last season. The Eagles hosted Belton in the tournament-opener last season in Prosper, but the two will not meet in 2016.