BABE RUTH WORLD SERIES: Indians trio sticks to rock for good luck

Published 12:22 am Tuesday, July 30, 2019

NEDERLAND — If Austin Schaper, Grant Rogers and Carson Roccaforte pitch Mid-County to victory in the Babe Ruth 16- to 18-year-old World Series, the Texans will have a little rock to thank in part.

At a glance, it appears to be a remnant of broken-up concrete in a bullpen that Grant Rogers found during a high school game this spring.

“He stuck it in his back pocket one day while he was pitching,” said Austin Schaper, Rogers’ fellow 2019 Port Neches-Groves graduate. “He threw a great game. The next time I went out to pitch, he gave it to me. I threw a great game, and then he gave it to our other [Mid-County and PNG] teammate, Carson Roccaforte, and he threw a great game. So, we were like, man, we’ve got to keep this rock in all of our back pockets for when we go out and pitch. It just became a thing, I guess.”

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Ever since, pitching with a pebble in a pocket has become the routine for the three hurlers. When it’s not game time, Rogers protects the pebble of no more than 2 cubic centimeters in a plastic bag labeled “The Rock.”

It’s been with the teammates through good and bad.

Rogers struck out 13 in a complete-game, 1-0 win against Vidor in the regular season finale. PNG lost to Friendswood 2-1 in the first playoff game, but Schaper, who’s headed for East Texas Baptist University, took the mound to throw two hitless innings and strike out one in relief.

The Indians won the next two games the following day at the same ballpark, as Rogers struck out five in a complete game and Roccaforte fanned nine in a shutout.

PNG then swept Shadow Creek in a home doubleheader. Rogers threw another shutout, while Khristian Curtis and Schaper combined to record 10 strikeouts in a 12-inning, 3-2 win.

Then came the 5A Region III quarterfinal against Nederland.

Rogers, who’s bound for Panola College, reminded his rivals-turned-Mid-County teammates the rock was in his back pocket for Game 1 of that series. Rogers went the distance and won that game in Nederland — only for the Bulldogs to strike back and win the next two.

These days, Mid-County (9-0) is a united force to be reckoned with in Mobile, Alabama.

“Our ballclub and Nederland’s ballclub had a lot of success during the season,” Schaper said. “When you put these great players together, including some from H-J [Hardin-Jefferson] and other places, we can do something really good here.”

The pebble is not the only good-luck charm in the Southwest Regional champions’ dugout. A black Mohawk helmet designed for bike riders has been known to be an effective rally cap as well.

Charms aside, the depth of Mid-County’s pitching staff, a majority of which hails from Nederland, has been the result of players from successful programs coming together and preparing for the next level — in the postseason and in their careers.

“We’re just trying to get bigger and better for next season and fix our mechanics while we can before college,” Rogers said. “We’re just trying to get better by doing this.”

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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