Hranicky, Indians shut down Mavericks in opener

Published 12:04 am Friday, May 12, 2017

**CORRECTED to reflect the actual home run hitter for PNG**

By Michael Sudhalter

Special to The News

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CROSBY — The Port Neches-Groves baseball team kept finding creative ways to get out of jams.

Then, their offense started to click, and the rest was history.

The Indians (25-5-2) outlasted Manvel, 4-0, in Game 1 of their UIL Class 5A Region III area playoff series at the Crosby Baseball Complex. It was PNG’s 17th consecutive victory.

But this one was a lot more challenging than the last time these teams met — a 12-0 PNG rout on March 2 in the Crosby Tournament.

PNG senior Brandon Morse will take the mound at 7 p.m. today in Game 2 against Manvel (17-10-1) at Crosby. If necessary, a Game 3 will be played on Saturday afternoon at Crosby.

Through the first five innings, the only run scored came on a Morse RBI in the third inning that scored senior Logan LeJeune.

The three-time defending District 22-5A champions had plenty of opportunities, leaving a total of nine runners on base.

“That was a little bit frustrating,” Indians head coach Scott Carter said.

But what made up for the missed opportunities was the brilliance of the PNG defense.

Indians junior pitcher Josh Hranicky, a Lamar commit, improved to 9-1 with his ninth consecutive win on the mound.

Hranicky struck out nine Mavericks in six-plus innings, including seven through the first three innings.

“Josh pitched really well for us, and the defense played very well behind him,” Carter said.

The Mavericks loaded the bases in the fifth and sixth innings and put runners on second and third base in the fourth, yet PNG managed to preserve their shutout.

Every time, it ended differently.

Manvel grounded into a double play in the fourth.

In the sixth, fellow junior Brandon Petix relieved Hranicky. With no outs, Manvel’s Damon Fernandez thought the umpire had called a fourth ball. He was incorrect, and PNG senior catcher Brandon Boudoin picked up on that quickly, throwing out the Mavericks’ runner at first base.

PNG senior Hayden Guerra closed out the Mavericks’ sixth inning rally attempt by making a diving catch of a line drive hit.

On each occasion — from the fourth to sixth inning — the Indians preserved a 1-0 lead.

Then, the floodgate opened in the bottom of the sixth — starting with a solo home run to left field by PNG’s Carson Roccaforte for a 2-0 lead.

PNG senior Jacob Vaughan made it 3-0 when he scored on a wild pitch, and PNG scored its final run on a bases-loaded walk.

With two outs, Manvel put runners on first and second, but the Indians managed to close out the win.

The winner of the PNG-Manvel series will face Barbers Hill or Santa Fe in the regional quarterfinals next week. Barbers Hill won Game 1 at Santa Fe on Thursday night.