PNG’s regional title evokes spectrum of emotions

Published 3:11 pm Saturday, June 3, 2017

HUNTSVILLE — Following Friday’s 4-0 win over Brenham, Port Neches-Groves baseball coach Scott Carter was waiting for his family to come down to the field.

Winning the 5A Region III championship was not just a moment for his team to share in. It was a family moment.

The players broke from their prayer huddle and rushed to the stands of Don Sanders Stadium at Sam Houston State to greet their family and friends. Moments later, Carter was asking a member of the stadium security staff to let his family meet him on the field.

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Amid the long awaited glory of PNG’s first regional title since 2004, a strong force in Carter’s life stayed fresh in mind.

“If you want to know the truth, if you want to know what’s going through my mind, it’s my mama,” Carter said, a tearful emotion beginning to settle in the otherwise smooth-flowing cadence of his voice. “I lost my mama on Feb. 23 of this year during the La Porte tournament. She’s always been my biggest fan. My dad’s kind of taken over that role. This is all for them. I wanted it so much.”

The Weston, La., native missed that tournament while spending time with his daughter in the hospital. The Indians (32-8-2) bounced back from two losses in the La Porte tournament on Feb. 23 to win two there the next day and tie another the day after.

The next week, PNG won four of five games at the Crosby tournament.

“I wasn’t even there,” Carter said. “I didn’t even know what happened. I just knew they won, and my kids did it for me. So, for me, it’s a feeling of blessings.”

On the other side of the field, the Brenham players were left all but silent after being swept in two games and shut out in the finale.

When talking about the nine seniors on his team, Brenham coach Lanny Williams had to stop and compose himself at times.

“We wouldn’t be here without those guys,” Williams said, taking a deep breath after being asked about them. “I’m going to miss them like crazy. About this time last year, every Monday for about 10 weeks in the summertime, we met in my house. We talked about this moment and how to get here and some little things as far as leadership. Those guys embraced it. They embraced their roles. Not all of them played all the time, but whatever role they had, they accepted it and they made sure everybody was on board with that. You’re never going to find a better group of guys.

“I can’t wait to see …,” he continued before pausing again, “… I can’t wait to see what kind of young men these guys become. It’s going to be pretty special for them and I know … I’m a better coach because of them.”



Maybe most impressive about the Indians’ sweep of the Cubs is that they didn’t have to go to their bullpen.

After senior Brandon Morse threw a three-hit complete game that featured six hitless (and scoreless) innings, junior Josh Hranicky held Brenham to four hits and stranded five Cubs in scoring position (seven overall).

“I only threw maybe one curveball today.” Hranicky said Friday. “It was all straight fastballs. Fastball is my best pitch and I bear down and give it my all.”

The leadoff batter for Brenham reached base four times, only for Hranicky and the Indians to keep them at bay.

“That’s typical Josh Hranicky baseball,” Carter said. “He’s going to lose it for a few minutes, he’s going to find it back. He’s going to come back. He’s going to work himself out of it.”

Hranicky stranded a runner at third in the fifth and sixth innings and, after giving up a one-out single to Davion Lockett in the seventh, struck out the next batter looking and induced a grounder to shortstop to end the game.

“Our defense played outstanding behind [Hranicky],” Carter said. “He threw a great ballgame. He didn’t want to come out. I thought about taking him out. He said, ‘Coach, let me finish.’ He had the shutout going, so I wasn’t going to take him out.”

As Hranicky put it: “It wasn’t just me out there playing; it was nine versus one.”



The Indians will likely know Sunday who they’ll play in the state semifinals at Dell Diamond in Round Rock. The 5A bracket on the UIL’s website links the champions of Regions I and III together, but according to Carter and other sources, the semifinalists with the top two records will avoid playing each other in the round of four and draw for their first opponents.

Corpus Christi Moody earned its ticket to Round Rock by beating Corpus Christi Ray in two games in Region IV. Colleyville Heritage won the first game over Grapevine in their best-of-three Region I series Friday. And Frisco Wakeland owned a 1-0 series lead over Mansfield Legacy in Region II.

Carter, who’s winding down his 27th year as a head coach and fourth at PNG, has only coached one game at Dell Diamond in Round Rock — an all-star game. When he guided Sweeny to the 2012 3A semifinals, it was contested at the University of Texas’ Disch-Falk Field.

In a tournament that’s seen the Indians play at The Ballparks in Crosby and Sam Houston State, they’ve now reached another crown jewel in Texas baseball at the home of minor league baseball’s Round Rock Express, the Texas Rangers’ Triple-A team just north of Austin. Don Sanders, the namesake of Sam Houston State’s field, is a co-owner of the Express along with father and son Nolan and Reid Ryan.

The idea of playing on high school baseball’s biggest stage in Texas left PNG senior center fielder Jacob Vaughan without words, but it’s only a matter of days before he finds out for himself what it’s like.

“I have no words for it,” he said. “I can’t even imagine it. I’m so excited.”

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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