Crosby gang: PNG going back to ‘Taj Mahal’ for regional semi series

Published 11:55 pm Monday, May 22, 2017

During his postgame comments Saturday night, Port Neches-Groves baseball coach Scott Carter recalled a conversation he had with one of his former pupils.

“There’s a guy in the stands here who was sitting by my wife who played for me, was an assistant coach for me when I was back in Sweeny, and the first thing he said to me was, ‘Man, your kids are focused,’” Carter said. “And I went, ‘Yeah, they’re ready to play.’”

How focused were the Indians?

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The players arrived at The Reservation at noon that day to put in a little extra work while the school hosted a playoff between West Sabine vs. Woden. They weren’t told to report, Carter said.

“They were focused on the bus ride over here, and when we got here, there was no jacking around,” he added.

Coming off an 8-0 home win over Barbers Hill the night before, the Indians (28-7-2) might have gained enough momentum in their series turnaround after losing 6-0 in Mont Belvieu on Thursday. Brandon Morse, PNG’s complete-game pitcher on Saturday, said: “I think we all came in knowing we were going to beat them, honestly.”

But it was apparent they weren’t taking either the momentum swing or getting to play in Crosby again for granted.

“My kids told me a while ago, ‘Coach we don’t have to practice next week,’” Carter said after PNG won Saturday’s game 4-0. “’We get to.’ That’s the way they’re playing right now. They’re having fun.”

If the Indians are having fun on the field, they might be jumping for joy over getting to return The Ballparks in Crosby for this week’s 5A Region III semifinal against Tomball (27-10), which beat Cedar Park in three games. PNG is 5-1 at the facility, which opened this year.

“It’s just a beautiful park,” Carter said. “The park is the Taj Mahal of fields around here. The atmosphere is special. The kids like going there. It’s a real tribute to our kids that they get to play at a facility like that.”

PNG and Tomball will play their entire best-of-three series there, which starts at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Game 2 is set for 1 p.m. Saturday with Game 3, if necessary, to follow 30 minutes after Game 2.

Friday’s victory gave the Indians confidence going back to Crosby, Morse said. PNG sprayed nine hits in that game after being held scoreless on four hits at Barbers Hill. PNG had a hit in each of the nine slots in the past three games combined, with Austin Bost and Jacob Vaughan (two hits each Friday) having the only multiple-hit performances.

“We came in knowing we were going to hit the ball,” Morse said. “We knew if we came out and hit the ball the third game, we were going to win it.”

Said Carter: “We had a good scouting report. We kept the ball away from those guys, and [the PNG pitchers] hit their spots. It could have easily went the wrong way, and it didn’t because of them. They were focused and they were focused on what they were supposed to do. I’m just really proud of both of those guys and my whole team.

“We’ve got guys coming through doing things right now — the squeeze bunt the fifth or sixth inning was huge, Holden Lane putting it down and scoring that run to get it in grand-slam distance — those are big things.”

The Indians’ pitching took care of its business as well, with Nathan Vidrine and Morse throwing complete games Friday and Saturday, respectively.

“Nathan Vidrine and Brandon Morse have been outstanding for us,” Carter said. “They’ve been two of our big guys in throwing most of our really big games. We’ve got Hranicky as well, who throws hard and does a great job for us, so we really like our staff.”

The winner will take on Brenham or Crosby in the regional finals. The regional champions will advance to the state rounds at Dell Diamond in Round Rock, June 8-9.

PNG has matched its longest playoff run since its last state semifinal appearance in 2004. (The 2010 team went four rounds deep.)

So far, the Indians are enjoying the ride.

“Oh, it’s awesome,” Morse said. “Just got to focus on Tomball next week. Just do exactly what we did the last two games, and it could be good.”

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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