No complacency: Indians staying on their game as area round begins tonight

Published 11:46 pm Wednesday, May 10, 2017

PORT NECHES — Sixteen straight victories and an unbeaten district record might make a team complacent.

“You would have thought so, but not with this group,” fourth-year Port Neches-Groves baseball coach Scott Carter said. “This group’s been really dedicated to what they’re doing. They work hard. They play hard. They come out every night ready to play.”

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And that’s how the Indians have won 16 in a row — and reached the area round of the 5A Region III playoffs, where they’ll face Manvel in a best-of-three starting tonight in Crosby.

For standouts like junior third baseman Austin Bost, it’s a matter of doing what he does best.

“Just trying to do what I can to help the team and get my bat going, whatever we can do to produce runs and win games,” Bost said.

Bost has a .375 batting average after going 3 for 4 with two doubles and triple in last Saturday’s 12-9 win over Humble to win the bi-district series.

Senior outfielder Jacob Vaughan, the ninth batter on PNG’s lineup, was 3 for 4 as well and drove in two runs.

“Austin’s had a hot bat all year,” Carter said. “He swings it well. Jacob Vaughan for us has done a good job in the 9-hole, turning over the lineup for us.”

With Lamar commit Josh Hranicky batting .440 and Trevor Martin hitting .429, Bost and Vaughan don’t carry the only hot bats for the Indians (24-5-2). Three others who’ve had 10 or fewer at-bats are at .500.

Then there’s the pitching.

Hranicky (8-1), who will start tonight, hasn’t lost since his first outing of the season. He’s struck out 60 in 38 innings and has a 1.66 ERA (0.95 in District 22-5A play).

He’s part of a strong rotation that includes Alvin Community College commit Nathan Vidrine (4-1, 2.15), Brandon Morse (6-0, 1.05) and Brandon Petix (5-2, 2.89). And the key to Indians’ mastery on the mound isn’t much of a secret.

“Staying in the zone and not walking people, throwing strikes,” Vidrine said. “When we do that, our defense is usually behind us and we get the job done.”

About Manvel

The opponent and setting for this area round series are very familiar to PNG.

Manvel (17-9-1, according to MaxPreps) lost 12-0 to PNG on March 2 in a tournament at Crosby. Since, the Mavericks went on to finish as District 23-5A runners-up.

“Their pitchers probably throw a little harder than ours do,” Carter said of Manvel. “They keep the ball in the zone. We played them earlier in the year; we played really good and they played really bad, so I’m sure they’re going to come with vengeance wanting to turn it around. We’ve got to be prepared to go in and play good baseball.”

Manvel beat Houston Austin 13-2 and 11-6 to make it to the area round.

If the Indians win this best-of-three series, they’ll be one round further than last year, when Santa Fe eliminated them in a rain-marred series. Santa Fe is facing Barbers Hill in the bracket slot opposite PNG/Manvel.

‘Tribute to every kid’

Carter has won 507 games in 27 years as a head coach. He reached No. 500 on April 11 in an 11-2 home win over Lumberton — not that he was counting the wins to the landmark.

“Winning 500-plus ball games means I’ve been doing it a long time,” Carter said. “I’ve been coaching 27 years, and those numbers break down pretty good. It’s not something you go into the season thinking about.”

Nor did Carter know he was approaching the landmark. He said his daughter was keeping count and told others about it.

“I didn’t know I’d get it this year,” Carter said. “It’s an honor. It’s a tribute, but it’s a tribute to every kid I coached for 27 years. Those 500 wins don’t go just to this team; it goes to every kid I coached along the way.”

Carter began his coaching career at Ville Platte (La.) Sacred Heart and moved to Boling before a 13-year run at Sweeny. Carter has led PNG since the 2014 season.

“A lot of people to thank, and a lot of people to be proud of, my wife and daughters, everybody moving around,” Carter said. “We’ve done a lot of relocating.”

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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