Northeast Tarrant

This year’s Panthers might be best ever

Colleyville Heritage pitcher Alex Scherff has signed with Texas A&M and could go in the first round of the MLB draft.
Colleyville Heritage pitcher Alex Scherff has signed with Texas A&M and could go in the first round of the MLB draft.

It’s an embarrassment of riches Alan McDougal has sitting in his dugout.

Colleyville Heritage’s baseball coach, who is in his 11th season running this program, has had strong teams come through in previous seasons. He’s had the state’s No. 1 team a time or two.

But the 2017 Panthers could be the deepest that he has ever fielded. Between the mound and the field, Colleyville Heritage is marching toward the postseason impressively.

Following a sweep of District 8-5A challenger Richland last week, Colleyville Heritage (22-1-1, 6-0) has found a way to shut down opponents and also get the jump on them.

The Panthers are ranked No. 2 behind Prosper in the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association 5A rankings. The only blemishes are a 3-3 tie with Carroll in the Arlington Martin tournament on March 2 and a 4-2 loss to Lubbock Cooper in the Lubbock Tournament on March 11.

This performance really wasn’t unexpected. The prognostications for this program were to have a banner year now since it was moving down from Class 6A to 5A.

“I don’t think anyone anticipates a 22-1 start,” McDougal said as the Panthers had a home-and-home district series with Fort Worth Polytechnic this week. “We’re talented. There’s no question about it. We give ourselves a chance to win every night.”

The Panthers have been challenged more in the non-district season than they have during the district season. Outside of 4-3 win against the Rebels on March 28, the Panthers had won their other five district games by an aggregate score of 89-1. In February and March, they have been involved in seven one-run or two-run games and are 6-1.

McDougal has a state championship caliber pitching staff led by Texas A&M signee and potential first-round draft choice Alex Scherff. Blessed with a 90-plus mph fastball, Scherff (6-0, 0.42 ERA), has anchored the Friday spot in the rotation.

But because McDougal has such depth, he can pick and choose with his Tuesday starter. He can choose between Isaiah Alvarenga (3-0, 1.17), Michael Stanford (4-0, 0.94) and Cameron Ehringer. McDougal has devised a way to use one as his starter, turn to another to finish a game and then use the third as the starter in the Wednesday intra-squad game. Because the University Interscholastic League has done away with Saturday non-district games during the district season, there are no other chances to give pitchers work.

“We really haven’t had the chance to extend them since the tournaments,” McDougal said.

Regardless of the competition, the offense has delivered, led by sophomore shortstop and closer Bobby Witt Jr. He’s hitting .466 with a team-leading seven home runs and 29 RBIs. Ehringer is hitting .360, is second with six home runs and tied with Witt with 29 RBIs. The Panthers are averaging 8.6 runs per game.

Colleyville Heritage has already hit 18 home runs along with 75 extra base hits. McDougal really hasn’t changed his lineup since about the second week of the season. That’s a measure of comfort.

“Our lineup is deep,” he said. “That’s the best way to put it. We’ve had a lot of quality at bats throughout the season. But we know that we can’t get caught up in the hoopla that surrounds this team. It’s baseball. A lot of strange things can happen.”