Mustangs, Panthers edging toward playoff berths

Posted Monday, Apr. 15, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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We now return you to the 2013 high school baseball season. There are two weeks remaining, and both Grapevine and Colleyville Heritage are on their way toward clinching playoff berths. Each could clinch a spot as early as Tuesday. Grapevine played host to Carrollton R.L. Turner, while Colleyville Heritage played at Irving.

For Colleyville Heritage, clinching early is not surprising. The Panthers (16-10-1, 9-1 in District 6-5A) are usually one of the first to do it with time to spare. Then there’s Grapevine (19-8-1, 9-1), which typically has to produce something in the last week or last game of the season in order to secure a postseason berth. Grapevine was fairly settled in its playoff situation in 2012, but not this early.

“We’re usually slow out of the gate,” Grapevine coach Tim McCune said. “This season is a little different. We’ve just played pretty well throughout the district season.”

Let’s give you a bit of a breakdown of how each put itself in this position:

Grapevine

The Mustangs’ defense was a bit rusty to begin the campaign as it committed 34 errors in the first 11 games. Plus, it didn’t help when pitching ace Connor McGuire had to be shut down for two weeks in March because of a strained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. McGuire had already begun the season with some shoulder concerns.

However, the defense enjoyed a rebound as it committed only eight miscues in the next 11 games. The pitching staff found two quality arms in left-hander Cooper Hess and right-hander Zach Kornely. Hess (7-1) doesn’t throw hard but has had great command of all of his pitches. Kornely (5-1) throws in the mid-80s. Each has a better than two-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio. Grapevine’s pitching staff has surrendered only seven runs through its first 10 games, but four of those came in the 9-inning 4-3 loss to Colleyville Heritage on April 9. Grapevine has thrown five shutouts in district play.

Since the layoff, McGuire has returned to the field and played third base. His power has changed drastically. After hitting seven home runs in 2012, he has yet to hit one in 2013. Cautiously, McCune used him on the mound last week against Colleyville Heritage and in last Saturday’s non-district game against Carroll.

The offense can’t wait for the long ball. The Mustangs have hit only three all season. Still, they are hitting for average with McGuire, Grant McClelland and Satchell Goodwin each hitting .350 or better. Grapevine is hitting .335 in 6-5A play.

Colleyville Heritage

Coach Alan McDougal knew this team would have to create a pitching staff in February and March. The Panthers suffered as they went 6-8.

While the arms have been unknown, the likes of Christian Gonzales and Lane Norwood have emerged as the most reliable. This is not a power arm staff but it is pitching to contact effectively.

Senior Cody Thomas is already enjoying his most prolific offensive year. Going into Tuesday, he was hitting .500 (37-74) with 10 home runs and 36 RBIs. In 2012, he hit seven home runs and drove in 28. In 2011, he hit six home runs and drove in 25.

Thomas’ bash partner Preston Palmeiro has seen his power dip to two home runs, but his average remains very solid at .427. Palmeiro has hit 17 home runs in his career.

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