BASEBALL: Sophomore, freshman push Indians into area round

Published 9:24 pm Saturday, May 5, 2018

PORT NECHES —Khristian Curtis was trying to catch his breath minutes after the game.

Port Neches-Groves’ sophomore starter, four days shy of his 16th birthday, had just delivered the complete-game performance of his young career.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “I just pushed through it.”

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His defense helped him shorten the workload in the seventh inning.

Curtis’ third 1-2-3 inning of the night, highlighted by two Gold Glove-type stops by third baseman Austin Bost, sealed PNG’s 3-1 Game 3 victory over Porter on Saturday evening to clinch a UIL 5A bi-district series. PNG (20-10-3), the defending 5A state champion, will take on Santa Fe in a series Thursday-Saturday at The Ballpark in Crosby, on the Crosby High School campus.

Youth served PNG quite well Saturday. Freshman Drake Varnado launched a full-count, one-out solo home run over left field in the fifth inning to give the Indians insurance.

Varnado, the Indians’ catcher who’s orally committed to South Carolina, went 2 for 3 with a first-inning single.

“I feel great, just going out here and getting to play the game and getting the job done for the team,” he said.

Curtis struck out two and allowed an earned run on four hits. He also stranded four Spartans in scoring position.

His plan of attack when Porter threatened was simple.

“Get the out,” he said. “Try to hold them from not scoring.

The sophomore moved along nicely early on, retiring his first eight batters. But two straight walks set up Tayler Baker’s one-run single with two outs in the third to put Porter (21-11-1) in front.

Curtis’ nerves began to kick in after that run, but he only walked three for the game.

“I tried to do too much, and that caused me to not produce as much,” he said. “Whenever we got that lead, it hit me and I relaxed.”

Curtis had hoped to finish the game a night after four PNG used four pitchers in a 12-3 loss. Brandon Petix went 6 2/3 innings in a 6-1 Thursday win at Porter.

The Indians left three on base in scoring position through three innings, but Holden Lane’s leadoff double sparked a two-run fourth inning. Curtis allowed Lane to score and reached on an errant shortstop-to-first base throw. Cameron Stansbury then knocked in pinch runner Hunter Curtis for the go-ahead score.

Hunter Curtis nearly scored his second run in the sixth inning on a Camron Abate single, but he was thrown out at the plate by just inches for the third out.

Bost, who made a diving stop on a line drive in the Porter fifth, made a vertical leap to snag Bryan Westenburg of a base hit in the seventh and, on the next at-bat, stopped a Baker grounder to make the throw to first to seal the win.

Porter’s Corey Schultz gave up one earned run on five hits and struck out eight Indians. Patrick Hine had a double, while Coltin Atkinson and Westenburg also hit a single apiece for the Spartans.

The PNG-Santa Fe series game times are 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday and, if necessary, 1 p.m. Saturday.

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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