Staked with a 5-0 lead in the first inning for a second consecutive day, Grapevine dominated its way to the UIL Class 5A state baseball championship Friday night by defeating San Antonio Alamo Heights 9-2 at Dell Diamond.
“Again today, yes,” Grapevine coach Steve Hutcherson said of the fast start. “I told them there’s going to be a day when we don’t get a bunch of hits, but we get a bunch of runs. It just happened to be today.”
The Mustangs (35-6-2) took the 5-0 lead on just one hit, and three Heights errors. In Thursday’s semifinal against Whitehouse it was four errors, a hit by pitch, and four Grapevine hits.
How surprised was Hutcherson?
“Very. But you know sometimes our reputation precedes us where a team comes in knowing they’ve got to shut you down,” he said. “It makes it tough when we’re still able to get guys on base because now that’s in the back of their minds.”
Junior right-hander Connor Neuman (7-1) earned the complete-game win, and was named championship game MVP. He struck out seven and gave up just one walk. He also got a hit, drew two walks and scored twice.
“Honestly no words can describe the feeling right now,” Neuman said. “It’s probably the best feeling ever. Just to spend it with the teammates I love, my brothers. It’s probably the greatest feeling ever.”
Both schools were making their first appearance in the state tournament.
Not used Friday was Heights pitching ace Forrest Whitley, the Houston Astros’ first-round pick in Thursday’s Major League draft. Whitley (10-1), a right-hander, won the Mules’ semifinal game against College Station, and does not play other positions.
“As good as it is to have a bunch of college guys or maybe a draft pick guy,” Hutcherson said, “if you’ve got 26 guys that buy in and believe what you’re doing, things like this can still happen.”
Lacking another ace, Alamo Heights (27-8) used four pitchers. Senior starter Jack Woodland (4-1) took the loss. He got one out in the first.
The Mules avoided a shutout with two runs in the bottom of the sixth on a double, fielder’s choice and back-to-back singles.
“I was pretty mad, but I had to regather myself,” Neuman said. “I was getting pretty tired that last couple of innings, I was battling.”
Neuman ended the sixth with a strikeout, then in the bottom of the seventh, the Mustangs turned a double play – their second of the game – to end the contest.
“There’s no more deserving kids on the planet than those guys,” Hutcherson said. “So to see a finish like this, it couldn’t be any better.”