A dream season for Colleyville Heritage came full circle at Dell Diamond on Saturday.
Heritage, the No. 2 team in the state and No. 3 in the nation, had three players taken in this year’s MLB First-Year Player Draft, including second overall pick Bobby Witt Jr., who was named Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year. The Panthers also had seven players sign letters of intent to Division I programs.
But nothing was sweeter than being able to call themselves UIL state champions for the first time.
The Panthers (39-3) exploded with six runs in the fourth inning to defeat Georgetown, 14-2, in six innings during the 5A state title game to capture the school’s second team title, joining the 1999 girls soccer team.
“This is a special group. It was the expectation and sometimes it’s hard to fulfill, but they found a way to get it done,” Heritage coach Alan McDougal said.
Six different players recorded two hits and three players had three hits as the Panthers finished with 18 hits, a 5A state tournament record for one game.
Joey Koetting, the No. 9 hitter, was voted game MVP after going 2 for 2 with three RBIs and three runs scored. He hit a deep liner over the left-fielder for a three-run double that gave Heritage a 3-2 lead in the second inning.
“I was looking for a fastball and I thought he was going to come in on me. I just wanted to hit it as hard as possible. It gave us life,” Koetting said. “Never in my life did I expect MVP. I still haven’t processed it yet.”
“Sometimes people will exhale with Joey and once you exhale, you see what happens today,” McDougal added. “He’s been unbelievable all year long. We came in with all these publicized players and Joey went out there and won the job at second base and has done incredible.”
Chandler Freeman (Dallas Baptist) and Jacob Guerrero (New Mexico) hit back-to-back one-out singles, and AJ Smith loaded the bases with a two-out single before Koetting came up. Koetting scored from second when Logan Britt hit a grounder that bounced off starting pitcher Jack Brinley and rolled into shallow left.
Britt (Texas A&M), who was drafted by the Chicago White Sox, hit an RBI single that give the Panthers a 5-2 lead in the fourth. He finished 3 for 5 with a triple, five RBIs and two runs scored.
“We worked all year long for this and it finally came true,” Britt said. “I knew we were going to break out at some point. We had 18 hits, set a record and if there’s a lineup that’s going to do it, it’s us. Just glad to go home as a state champ.”
Nicholas Balsano (Baylor) and Mason Greer (Auburn), who was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks, followed Britt in the fourth with two more RBI singles to make it 7-2. Freeman (Dallas Baptist) capped off the surge with a deep liner to right center for a two-run triple and scored on a wild pitch to extend Heritage’s lead to 10-2 through 3 1/2 innings.
“It was going to take everything to beat them. We just had to come out swinging,” Greer said. “We felt a big inning coming, we haven’t had one in awhile so it finally happened. There’s no better feeling than going out your senior year a state champ and making program history.”
“We talk about one pitch at a time and that’s how we go about winning games,” added Freeman, who went 2 for 3 with two RBIs and two runs scored. “We worked all year beginning in February until now and to finally accomplish this, it’s an unreal feeling.”
Georgetown (41-5-1), also state runner-up in 2015, and Heritage loaded the bases in back-to-back innings; first with the Eagles in the bottom of the first inning. Wesley Dixon walked and Noah Thompson hit a hard grounder to right field for a two-run single.
But the Panthers scored four runs in the top of the second to take the lead.
“We just had a lot of confidence and a lot of fun. When we were down, we kept our composure and wanted to win every inning. We kept scoring and it was like a compound effect,” said Witt, who became the highest player from Tarrant County drafted since 1994. “We got that gold medal and it’s been a blessing to play with this team. I’m going to celebrate with my teammates and enjoy this moment.”
Balsano, who went 2 for 4 with two RBIs, drove in a run with a double down the right-field line in the fifth. A high pop-fly from Britt in the sixth found the grass in shallow right to score three runs.
Guererro and Smith both went 3 for 4 with two runs scored.
“I said if you give us enough swings, I like our chances to be successful,” McDougal said. “They’ve had the two of us circled all year long so to end it the way we did today, it was gratifying for our guys.