Mustangs in deepest playoff run since 1999

Posted Monday, May. 13, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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As fastballs go, Zach Kornely didn’t think the one he brought to Grapevine Ballpark last Saturday was vintage.

Usually, he can hit 88 MPH. But he was probably 85-87 against Mansfield. Still, location and movement can serve a pitcher better. Kornely turned in a brilliant outing in the Mustangs’ (27-8-1) 5-0 Class 5A Region I area playoff victory. Grapevine swept the Tigers to advance to the regional quarterfinals.

Grapevine will meet Flower Mound Marcus. Game 1 is 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Marcus. Game 2 is 7:30 Friday at Grapevine. A deciding Game 3 would be scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at Grapevine. Grapevine coach Tim McCune won a flip for the Saturday game.

This is uncharted waters for Grapevine. While it has enjoyed postseason success, it hasn’t advanced this deep since 1999.

Kornely limited Mansfield to four hits and one walk. He used 88 pitches to record four strikeouts and used a doubleplay in the seventh inning to thwart any chance of a rally.

“I felt good. Every pitch was on,” Kornely said. “I threw everything exactly where I wanted to throw it.”

The Mustangs are 4-0 in the postseason due to strong efforts by their starting pitching in left-hander Cooper Hess and Kornely. On Friday, Hess labored through 5 2/3 innings, scattering 11 hits and surrendering three runs. But he was good enough before giving way to Connor McGuire, who recorded the last four outs in the 5-3 Game 1 win.

Regardless of the level, starting pitching always determines a team’s fate. Hess and Kornely are each 2-0 and have allowed only six runs in their 26 2/3 innings of work. Plus, the efforts validate that these two weren’t just doing this against allegedly lesser competition in District 6-5A.

Each finds a rhythm quickly, throws strikes and keeps the defense in the game. That’s usually means success.

“We faced a really good hitting team [Mansfield],” McCune said. “To shut that lineup down is a pretty good accomplishment. We have guys who do a great job preparing and competing.”

McGuire likes new role

There’s no question that Connor McGuire still has a big fastball. But as fate would have it, he just doesn’t use it as much.

Suffering from wear and tear in his shoulder at the end of fall baseball in late October, McGuire felt the discomfort and had to be shut down. While no surgery was needed, the right-hander went through six weeks of intense physical therapy and a throwing program to rebuild his shoulder.

A starter last year, McGuire became this team’s closer when he’s playing third base. When he saved Friday’s 5-3 win, it was his first appearance in about four weeks. He retired all four batters he faced.

“Actually, I think my fastball is better since I went through the therapy,” he said. “My approach is to just attack the hitter. It’s a just different way of doing things.”

As a starter, McGuire had to pace himself through multiple innings. Now, he can expend his energy quicker.

“I like the approach,” he said. “I just have to keep throwing strikes and be ready when they need me.”

Small ball

The Mustangs don’t have a lot of thump in their lineup – they’ve hit three home runs all year – but they have used the bunt as a great weapon to build innings. They did it in the Hebron series with six bunts and used four bunts to collect three runs in the series vs. Mansfield. Even though the Mansfield defense knew the bunts were coming, the Mustangs simply executed. Satchel Goodwin had a beauty in Game 2.

“We’re good at what we value,” McCune said. “We just did the things we needed to do. I was proud of the way we played the series.”

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