They sat there at the top of the 13-2A standings, sharing the district title after splitting their two match-ups — which accounts for 40 percent of their combined losses.
Next week, they could be sharing the region final and guaranteeing someone heading to the state tournament for the first time in school history.
But before Tom Bean and Bells can set up a highly-anticipated re-match, the Lady Tomcats and Lady Panthers have to take care of business in their respective Region II semifinal series.
Tom Bean (22-3) will face Valley View at Prosper. Game 1 is at 6 p.m. on Thursday with Games 2 and 3 at noon on Saturday.
Bells (27-2) takes on Moody at Fort Worth Brewer. Game 1 is at 7 p.m. on Thursday with Games 2 and 3 at 6 p.m. on Friday.
The opposite sides of the bracket were determined by a coin flip and both teams have yet to drop a game.
Bells won one-gamers against Campbell and Axtell by a combined score of 30-2 and this past weekend swept fellow district foe Trenton, a region finalist last year, by a combined score of 31-0.
“They want to go beat people and let the people know they’ve been beat,” Bells head coach Kristina Stephens said. “We only have the two losses but they came at the right time for us. We do have imperfections to work on.”
Tom Bean has yet to play a series this playoffs, opening with an 18-0 win over Celeste, rallying for a 9-6 win against Mart and then run-ruling Honey Grove, 12-2, last week.
“We have a big picture and that’s to make it to Austin,” sophomore Ellie Bailey said. “We have the smaller pictures in front of us right now. The chance to go to Austin is the ultimate goal.”
That shouldn’t really be a surprise since they only lost three times during the season, not counting the losses to each other.
Bells’ only other defeat was a 7-2 loss against Pottsboro in the Anna-Van Alstyne Tournament six weeks ago.
“We had the best preseason start in two years and so I thought we’d be good this year,” Stephens said. “And we’ve improved since then. The senior leadership has been amazing.”
Tom Bean lost against Aubrey, 2-0, in the season opener and then 6-3 against Bonham in the Sanger Tournament near the end of February.
And it’s safe to say that both teams expected to be among the final four in the region.
“The girls have had the faith in themselves. We know how good we could be,” Tom Bean head coach Lance Cherry said. “Our goal was to make the playoffs and see what we could when we got there.”
The Lady Panthers were region semifinalists last year for the first time in school history, losing to eventual state semifinalist Crawford, improving on a region quarterfinal spot in 2015 that was the deepest playoff push to that point.
It is a group well-steeped in playoff experience — seniors Kylie Stubbs, Katie Branam, C.J. Crane and Kinley Ives are all at least two-year starters — but has also seen an influx of freshmen contribute immediately.
“I think we’ve clicked really well because we have the same dream and we’re pushing for that,” Stubbs said. “We want to set the bar higher every year. There’s nowhere else we’d rather be.”
Six of the regulars are hitting .400 or better, led by Cheyenne Floyd at .515 with 14 doubles, five homers and 50 RBI. Crane is batting .479 with eight homers and Ashley Sloan is at .471 with 14 doubles, eight homers and 46 RBI.
The Lady Tomcats are in the region semifinals for just the second time in program history and the first since 2012, when they reached the Class 2A (what is now 3A) Region II final but lost to eventual state champ Crawford.
“It’s all about making deep runs,” Cherry said. “Coming into the year, this was the goal all along.”
Last year Tom Bean made the region quarterfinals in Class 3A and when realignment moved them down in classification with almost that entire core intact, it was easy to believe the success would continue.
“We knew we could do bigger things than we did last year,” sophomore Baylee Stautzenberger said. “As long as we played our hardest, gave it all we got.”
Annie Bailey is hitting .661 with eight home runs and 42 RBI, Taylor Williams is batting .645, Ellie Bailey is at .582 with 16 doubles and 36 RBI and Stautzenberger is sporting a .475 average with Tom Bean also having six starters with a .400 average or better. A roster that has four seniors and two juniors but also two sophomores and five freshmen has found the right balance.
“We have a good mix. That’s been good for our chemistry,” Cherry said. “We have some good leaders that keep us focused on the task at hand.”