Southlake Carroll graduated 22 seniors and didn’t return a single starter from last season’s state championship team.
Repeating as champions didn’t seem like a viable outcome for the Dragons, who were projected to finish fourth or fifth in their district.
But games aren’t played on paper.
Carroll broke two UIL 6A state tournament records to successfully defend its title with a 17-0 shellacking of Fort Bend Ridge Point in five innings on Saturday at Dell Diamond.
“They didn’t pick us to win. After we lost all those seniors, we didn’t have a target on our back, we were chasing people,” said Carroll coach Larry Vucan, who won his 100th career game with the Dragons. “It’s a testament to the kids. They worked hard, they believed in each other and understood what the goal and expectation was and they achieved it.”
The Dragons (33-11) set the 6A state tournament record for runs in a game and runs in one inning when they scored 11 times in the third. Carroll brought up 17 batters and got four hits and three Ridge Point errors.
Ridge Point (33-5-1), which was making its first trip to state, threw 76 pitches in the inning, which lasted over 40 minutes.
“It’s not indicative of Ridge Point. They’re a very classy club and earned their way here, but I think they just ran out of pitching,” Vucan said. “We were just on fire. The kids wanted it and got after it.”
Seven different players drove in runs in the third. Austin Hale hit an RBI single and Justin Grech, who drove in the game-winning run in Friday’s semifinal vs. Lake Travis, singled up the middle to drive in a pair.
Grech drove in three runs and was voted 6A state title game MVP.
“Not expecting it at all,” Grech said. “It felt amazing to hear my name called and to get this award.”
“He had a broken hand the last four weeks so Friday night was his first game back,” Vucan added. “Then he comes out of it as the MVP of the state tournament, that’s incredible.”
Homer Bush scored on an error in the first inning as the Dragons scored four times. Cade Manning added an RBI double and Riley Garcia hit a two-run single to right field.
“No one thought this was going to happen in the beginning of the year,” said Garcia, who went 2 for 3. “This is by far one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.”
Joe Steeber (5-2) earned the win with four hits and five strikeouts. Thomas Wrehe finished with two RBIs and Manning and Brandon Howell combined for four hits and six runs scored.
“It’s a dream come true pitching in this game. I was a little nervous, but then I treated it like a normal game,” said Steeber, who will continue his career at Hill College. “My offense took a lot of pressure off me with all those runs.”
Carroll, which won its fourth title in program history and made the trip for the ninth time, broke the previous record for runs in a game set by Highland Park (15) in 1951. The 11 runs in the third inning broke the previous record of 8 set by three teams, the last coming from Dallas Samuell in 1965.