Over the course of the previous three high school baseball seasons, Grapevine and Aledo have been the gold standard for Region I in Class 5A.
Each has won a state championship. Aledo won its title in 2014 (when it was in Class 4A, the second-largest classification at the time). Aledo then returned to the state tournament in 2015 before falling in the semifinals. Grapevine followed with its state championship in 2016.
The collision course brings these two together for the Class 5A Region I quarterfinal best-of-three series at White Settlement Brewer. Thursday and Friday’s games are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. A deciding third game would begin at 1 p.m.
Aledo (28-9) has breezed through its first two series against Denton and Richland with sweeps. Grapevine (26-9) had to grind through its area series against Sherman. The Mustangs, who were not sharp on the mound, won in three games. They outslugged the Bearcats 11-6 in the deciding third game.
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The warning Grapevine coach Steve Hutcherson issued to his team prior to this series came true. Every team that plays the defending champions is going to play more inspired. Despite carrying a roster that went through the seven rounds to win the gold medal last year, there are new faces in 2017. Experiences are different.
“Every round is more intense and every team is capable of beating you,” Hutcherson said. “Because you have so many guys’ experience, you feel that part of them understand what it takes. But there are some guys who have never been a part of this, so it’s new for them. I think they realized that this is how it is.”
One of those experienced players is shortstop Boone Montgomery. He’s known as the safety valve for postseason series. He pitched the third game in the 2016 postseason series wins against Wichita Falls Rider and Canyon. Against Sherman, Montgomery was staked to an early 5-0 lead. He suffered through one bad inning but was good enough to maintain the lead so the Mustangs could advance.
“It’s really tough to pull him out of shortstop because he’s so consistent there,” Hutcherson said. “But what you like about him is that he’s a great competitor. He’s a solid high school pitcher who can help and make big pitches. It’s a luxury to have someone like that.”
It may come down to Montgomery against Aledo. After all, this is a program that knows the postseason demands.
These Bearcats feature a dynamic leadoff hitter in Hunter Rosson. One of the top hitters is slugger designated hitter/first baseman Truett Knox. Aledo finished second in District 6-5A behind Justin Northwest. The Bearcats are averaging eight runs through their first four postseason games.
“We were lucky because we could watch them Thursday when their series started (Grapevine’s didn’t start until Friday),” Hutercherson. “Their starters are solid. They’re a tough team and will compete hard. There’s not really a dropoff in their lineup.”
The same can be said for Grapevine’s lineup. The Sherman series showed that if this team needed to slug its way through to the next round it could. Grapevine has averaged seven runs in four playoff games.