Going deeper: Morse’s gem puts Indians in regional semis

Published 10:31 pm Saturday, May 20, 2017

CROSBY — The Ballparks in Crosby have been good to Port Neches-Groves.

For the second time in a week, the Indians won a three-game baseball series here, and Brandon Morse had plenty to do with that achievement. The senior threw a complete game, three-hitter and posted the Indians’ second straight shutout of Barbers Hill on Saturday, winning 4-0 to advance to the 5A Region III semifinal round against Tomball, which defeated Cedar Park.

“It’s awesome,” Morse said, “especially when you have the best defense in the state behind you.”

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Morse threw four strikeouts, his last one to Cullen Kirkland extending the Indians’ deepest playoff run under fourth-year coach Scott Carter.

“I just had really good command of my slider and my fastball, too,” Morse said. “It was all working tonight.”

The previous time PNG was here, the Indians defeated Manvel in three games, coming back in the seventh inning of the finale to take a 4-3 win.

The Indians posted two impressive shutouts after being shut out 6-0 in Thursday’s series opener in Mont Belvieu. Barbers Hill (29-5) had won 21 straight before Friday’s 8-0 defeat.

“This was a great series,” Carter said. “Barbers Hill is a great team. They’ve been ranked at the top of the region all year long. They have an outstanding ballclub and outstanding staff. They’ve got some of the better players in the area, and we’ve got some good players, too.”

Asked whether Saturday’s winner-take-all contest was a pressure situation for the Indians, Morse said: “I think we all came in knowing we were going to beat them. … We knew if we hit the ball the third game, we were going to win it.”

PNG laced five hits off Barbers Hill. Logan LeJeune drove a single to right field in the third inning to open the scoring, but it was a passed ball and bases-loaded walk in the fourth that allowed the Indians to build on that lead. Holden Lane hit a sacrifice grounder in the fifth.

Nathan Vidrine, Trevor Martin, Morse and Lane each had a hit for the Indians.

Jace Seymour allowed two earned runs on four hits in 3 2/3 innings to take the loss for Barbers Hill. Koby Emerson held PNG to one hit the rest of the way, but he hit Austin Bost on a pitch in the fifth and Bost scored on Lane’s grounder.

Bryce Bonnin, Rhett McCall and Emerson accounted for Barbers Hill’s hits.

In Carter’s eyes, it might not have taken three rounds of postseason play to send a message that PNG can contend for a state championship. But the Indians, who went 14-0 in District 22-5A, did knock out a team that ran the table in 21-5A and featured an Arkansas signee in Bonnin.

“I think people found out who Port Neches-Groves was not long ago,” Carter said. “I don’t think it was tonight, but I definitely think that Port Neches-Groves is on the map and people know who we are. They know where we’re at. We’re going to keep playing hard and keep doing what we’re doing and having fun.”

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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