Saturday in the park: School’s out, but not PNG’s kings of comeback

Published 9:18 pm Friday, June 9, 2017

By Michael Sudhalter

Special to The News

ROUND ROCK — The Port Neches-Groves ISD’s last day of classes for students was June 1.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Few people outside of the Indians’ team and loyal fan base would have expected that the Port Neches-Groves High baseball team would be playing after school was out. But the seniors have walked across the stage and accepted their diplomas.

They just have one order of business before they leave PNG — capture the school’s first baseball championship ever, and the first in any sport in 36 years.

“Our kids have been resilient, and they’re having fun,” Indians head coach Scott Carter said. “They didn’t want it [the season to end in May].”

PNG (33-8-2) will face defending 5A state champion Grapevine (33-12) in the UIL Class 5A championship game at noon Saturday at Dell Diamond in Round Rock.

The Indians overcame a 2-1 deficit to earn a 3-2 victory over Frisco Wakeland in Thursday’s semifinal game.

Grapevine held on for a 3-2 victory, after initially taking a 2-0 lead against Corpus Christi Moody, which entered the game as the No. 1 team in Class 5A.

Carter said the starting pitcher will be a game-time decision. He’s deciding between Josh Hranicky, who started Game 1, as well as Brandon Morse and Brandon Petix.

Nathan Vidrine, who threw 6 1/3 shutout innings in Thursday’s win, might come out of the bullpen, said Carter.

Grapevine will likely start Max Gehler.

Grapevine head coach Steve Hutcherson holds PNG in high regard after watching them on Thursday.

“They’re every bit as good as Moody,” Hutcherson said. “The championship game will be a complete battle.”



PNG’s comeback was no surprise to those who have kept a close eye on the team all season.

The Indians trailed Manvel, 3-1, in the bottom of the seventh inning of an area-round (second round) Game 3. PNG came back to earn a 4-3 victory on walks and hit by pitches.

In the Region III quarterfinals, the Indians were shut out 6-0 against Barbers Hill, but bounced back to win 8-0 and 4-0 over the next two games.

“That’s why we play a series,” Carter said. “Anyone can win one game.”

In the regional semifinals, PNG dropped Game 1 to Tomball, 6-1, before defeating the Cougars, 5-1, 5-3.

In that game, freshman Carson Roccaforte, who started the season on junior varsity and was promoted for the playoffs, kept the season alive against Tomball. He also hit a key home run in the Manvel series.



The 5A championship game was originally scheduled to be played at 7 p.m. Friday. That changed when the UIL re-arranged the championship schedule, in anticipation of the University of Texas hosting an NCAA Super Regional. The Longhorns were eliminated in the regional, but the newly configured UIL championship schedule remained.

Because of that, the Indians had a chance to relax for most of the day, and take about 90 minutes of batting practice at Hutto High School, about five miles east of Dell Diamond.

Carter said he was encouraged by the team’s demeanor and positive attitude during batting practice.



If the name Tommy Maddox sounds familiar, yes, it is the former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback.

Maddox, who played for the Steelers from 2001-05 was the bridge between Kordell Stewart and Ben Roethlisberger. He’s now the pitching coach for Grapevine.

“He keeps the pitchers under control,” Hutcherson said. “I tend to get fired up at times.”



Another Gulf Coast team, Deer Park, will compete for a state championship Saturday. Class 6A Deer Park edged Southlake Carroll in Friday’s semifinals, due to a balk.

The Indians defeated Deer Park, 4-3, in the fifth and final game of the La Porte tournament on Feb. 24.

On Friday, the PNG players watched the Deer’s victory.

Hutcherson, interestingly enough, played prep baseball at Deer Park and college at Alvin Junior College — where Vidrine has signed.