Northeast Tarrant

Mustangs finish making history

Grapevine teammates await London Green after he scored from first base in the first inning to give Grapevine a 3-0 lead against Whitehouse in the state tournament.
Grapevine teammates await London Green after he scored from first base in the first inning to give Grapevine a 3-0 lead against Whitehouse in the state tournament.

Members of Grapevine’s 2016 Class 5A state championship team probably had a hard time sleeping over the weekend.

When a program fulfills the ultimate dream, it takes a little time for it to sink in. But the proof was every member of this team wearing a gold medal around his neck and returning to the school with a trophy.

Grapevine finished its initial appearance at the state tournament last week at Dell Diamond in Round Rock in historic fashion by winning its first title. The Mustangs easily handled Whitehouse in Thursday’s semifinals, 7-0, and then dominated San Antonio Alamo Heights in Friday’s championship game, 9-2.

While there were two ties, Grapevine finished the season at 35-6. The Mustangs also put together some impressive runs along the way. They won a school-record 21 consecutive games and went undefeated in District 6-5A (12-0).

“I woke up (Sunday morning) and really had to convince myself that this really happened,” Grapevine first-year coach Steve Hutcherson said. “All of the people that I have admired in this game and have done something like this shows you that it can be done.”

The Mustangs, who went 12-3 in the postseason, certainly peaked at the right time. In both the semifinal and championship games, Grapevine didn’t give either opponent a chance to look at it. The Mustangs scored five runs in the first inning in each.

This was a complete team. The Mustangs scored 87 runs in 15 postseason games (5.8 RPG) and allowed only 28 (1.9 RPG).

“When we got out to the 7-0 lead against Alamo Heights, I felt like we were going to be able to finish,” Hutcherson said. “You still have to get 21 outs. The guys were excited but played under control. They were still loose and having fun.

“In fact, when I watched a replay of the game on Fox Sports on Saturday, I kept looking at shots of our dugout in cutaways, and you would have thought this was a game in February.”

Learning to finish

When it was on the line, the Mustangs didn’t flinch from the big moment. In their eight elimination games – we’re counting the games in the bi-district sweep of Denton and the Region I final sweep of Lake Dallas – Grapevine trailed for only one half inning.

That was in the top of the second inning in Game 3 of the Region I semifinal series against Canyon. The Eagles scored a run in the top of the second inning. Grapevine answered with a run in the bottom of it.

In the state tournament and stacked with a wealth of pitching depth, the Mustangs only needed two arms in senior Kyle Flamm and junior Connor Neuman. Each pitched a complete game. Flamm allowed only five hits in his shutout. Neuman surrendered two runs in the sixth but finished the game in strong fashion. Each made the first two starts in every postseason series.

“The key for us was that we played the same game we had all season,” Flamm said. “We put relentless pressure on opposing defenses and making them make plays. We did a good job executing our game plan and it resulted in runs without much production at the plate.”

Looking to 2016

The Mustangs will be losing 13 seniors from this squad including Flamm, Paul McCullough, Ty Jones and James Wyche. But a strong nucleus, led by Neuman and Joseph Leal, should help Grapevine contend again. Grapevine moves into a new district (8-5A) that includes GCISD rival Colleyville Heritage, Richland, Birdville, Fort Worth Poly, Fort Worth Dunbar, Fort Worth Eastern Hills and Fort Worth Carter-Riverside.

“A lot of juniors contributed to what we did this year,” Hutcherson said. “So we have a good group of players coming back.”