Royal purple: PNG dethrones Grapevine, win first state baseball championship

Published 4:53 pm Saturday, June 10, 2017

By Michael Sudhalter
Special to The News

ROUND ROCK — The Port Neches-Groves baseball team has received a lot of accolades this season.

Talented. Owners of a 17-game winning streak. Three-time defending District champions. Region III champions.

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On Saturday, the Indians earned the highest accolade of all — UIL Class 5A state champions — after they dethroned defending champion Grapevine, 4-2, in the 5A state final before 4,923 fans on Saturday afternoon at Dell Diamond.

The victory marks the Indians’ first state championship in baseball and the first in any team sport since 1981.

Senior pitcher Brandon Morse was named tournament MVP, and senior shortstop Nathan Vidrine — the winning pitcher in Thursday’s semifinal victory — came through with two RBI. Junior third baseman Austin Bost also had two RBI.

Morse and Vidrine are two of the 11 seniors on the PNG roster.

“I’m so blessed and just elated for the kids and the fans,” PNG head coach Scott Carter said.

For Carter, the state championship is his first in Texas, and third overall (he won 1992 and 1993 Louisiana state championships).

When asked what’s next, he said he’ll take the day off on Sunday and then shift his focus to the Indians’ 2017 football season on Monday. Carter, who has more than 500 wins as a head baseball coach, is an assistant football coach at PNG.

Grapevine head coach Steve Hutcherson congratulated PNG on a great game.

“They ran the bases well and put the ball in play,” Hutcherson said. “The past couple of weeks, everything had been an uphill battle for us. We had found ways to win, but it didn’t happen today.”

PNG (34-8-2) was famous for its playoff comebacks this season, but the team chose a different vantage point against Grapevine (33-13).

They jumped ahead right away, registering a total of eight hits, including six in 3 1/3 innings against Grapevine starting pitcher Max Gehler.

Leadoff hitter Hayden Guerra started off both the championship and semifinal games with a single.

“It’s all about momentum — we just stayed on top of our game,” Guerra said.

Guerra, a left fielder, also caught the final out of the game. Saturday marked his final baseball game as he will head to Texas A&M in the fall as a student.

“My baseball career is over — I got a little emotional,” Guerra said. “The championship means everything to me. I worked my whole life for this, and it finally paid off. Our team will be remembered for a good while.”

Junior third baseman Bost delivered a first inning RBI single for the second consecutive game. In Saturday’s game, his RBI single was followed by another one from Vidrine.

In the third inning, Vidrine hit a sacrifice fly RBI for a 3-1 lead.

PNG’s patience paid off in the bottom of the fourth when Grapevine reliever Boone Montgomery walked Bost with the bases loaded.

The Indians took a 4-1 lead, and they withstood a Mustangs fifth inning rally in which they loaded the bases. Mustangs senior second baseman London Green scored both of Grapevine’s runs on fielder’s choices.

PNG senior catcher Braxton Boudoin plays with more energy than most prep baseball players in the state of Texas.

During the state tournament, he twice closed out innings by catching a foul ball for an out. It was that momentum that helped the Indians win state.

“I love this game, and I love this school — I’ve dreamed about a state championship for years,” Boudoin said.

Boudoin said PNG wasn’t fazed by the fact that many of the prep baseball experts in the state underestimated them.

“We were supposed to get crushed against Barbers Hill,” Boudoin said. “We weren’t even supposed to win district. We never let the rankings get in our way, and now, we’re state champions.”