BASEBALL: Indians plus Indians equals 1 destination

Published 6:34 pm Monday, May 7, 2018

The forecast for Battle of the Indians, 2018 edition, bodes much better than the 2016 version.

Warm, but little chance of rain.

The sun will be a lot more visible than two years ago, when Port Neches-Groves and Santa Fe bounced around six baseball fields in six days.

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“It’s definitely an opportunity to bounce back from what happened two years ago, but two years ago is gone,” PNG coach Scott Carter said Monday. “This is a new ballclub. Santa Fe’s got a different ballclub. Their pitching is good. Their hitting is good. We’ll just have to play solid defense. We want to win this series as much as they do.”

Carter hardly mentioned the 5A area round series that started in Baytown and went to Nederland, then Crosby, then Pearland, then Jasper and at last to Madisonville. Baytown Sterling High hosted Game 1, Crosby held Game 2 after heavy rain denied Sterling and Nederland a chance to host, and plans to play in Pearland and Jasper got nixed thanks to Mother Nature.

Santa Fe won the decisive Game 3, 2-1, in eight innings and eventually went to the 5A Region III semifinals.

This time, all the action will go down at The Ballpark in Crosby — the one-year old facility behind the new Crosby High School campus (333 Red Summit Drive).

“Crosby is our second home,” senior third baseman Austin Bost said. “We played so many playoff games last year. I think we’ll be ready to play on Thursday.”

The trip is made possible thanks in part to two standout stops Bost made in the seventh inning of Saturday’s series clincher over Porter. He made a vertical leap for the second out and then dove to glove a grounder and make the throw the first to end the Spartans’ season.

“I just worked my whole life to play third base,” Bost said. “In those situations, I was ready for it.”

Santa Fe’s 2018 Indians (23-9-1, 14-2 in 23-5A) won their district championship and easily swept Houston Furr in the bi-district round. Defending state champion PNG (20-10-3, 12-2 in 22-5A) needed three games to put away Porter.

So, two traditional powers in Region III will battle for the right to take on 24-4A champion Houston Milby or 21-5A runner-up Kingwood Park, which beat Porter in a game to determine the second seed from that district.

“They [Santa Fe] play good baseball year-in and year-out,” Carter said. “They’re going to be in the playoffs ever year, and they’re going to make a little run.”

So have the Indians.

Sophomore Khristian Curtis threw all seven innings in Saturday’s 3-1 win, one night after four PNG pitchers including Bost were used in a 12-3 home loss. Senior Brandon Petix fired 6 1/3 innings in Thursday’s 6-1 win.

“I think we had to grow up on pitching and learn how to handle adversity,” Carter said. “Thursday, I thought Petix threw a really good ballgame. Saturday, I thought Khristian Curtis was lights-out and made people beat him with their bat. Friday night, we let the emotions get the better part of us. We didn’t handle the few adverse moments very well, and hopefully we can wrap our heads around that. We know our pitching staff is good and can throw well.”

Carter also said he talked with PNG on Monday about pushing runners in scoring position across. Ten were left stranded at second and third bases during the series.

“We’ve got to do a better job of going up there not trying to hit home runs,” Carter said. “Just put a ball in play and score some runs. When we have runners in scoring position, we have to be patient and a little more selective at what we swing at.”

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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