Any one of the seven radar guns pointed his way could confirm that Colleyville Heritage starting pitcher Alex Scherff throws it every bit as hard as people have heard. Maybe even harder.
Scherff’s fastball touched 98 mph in the first inning of a 10-1 complete game win March 31 at Richland, and was still hitting 96 in the sixth. That kind of heat would usually be enough of a draw for the scouts and opposing high school coaches to come get a look at what the state’s second-ranked Class 5A team is doing this season.
But they’re coming in droves for more than just Scherff, a 6-foot-2, 209-pound senior built like a linebacker. He is, after all, already signed to play next year at Texas A&M.
Whether he ever pitches in College Station, though, will be decided in June, when he will likely be picked in the first few rounds of the 2017 Major League Baseball draft. Baseball America listed Scherff as its No. 21 high school draft prospect before the season began, and more recently had the senior listed 43rd.
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“I know they’re going to be here sometimes, but that’s the last thing on my mind,” said Scherff, who started noticing more and more scouts as he built his reputation in baseball circles last season at Plano Prestonwood alongside current Oklahoma State freshman Jonathan Heasley. “I just want to get outs for my guys. After a couple times, they’re just there. I like more people to be at the games. I like to see the stands full. It’s a really good feeling to know that people want to see you pitch.”
But also a draw for fans are a couple of sophomores: Sons of former Texas Rangers occupy the three- and five-holes in a Panthers batting order that averages 8.9 runs per game.
Bobby Witt’s son, Bobby Jr., a sophomore shortstop/pitcher committed to Oklahoma, leads Heritage in hits (39), runs (29) and RBIs (35), and is tied for the team lead in home runs (seven). The scouting/recruiting site Perfect Game ranks Witt as the nation’s No. 1 player in the class of 2019.
His father, Bobby Witt, also went to Oklahoma before spending all or part of 11 seasons on the mound for the Texas Rangers in a 16-year career starting in 1986.
Rusty Greer’s son Mason plays second base and bats two spots down from Witt. Greer hit .305 during a nine-year career with the Rangers from 1994-2002.
The former Rangers have transitioned to the role of baseball dad with the perspective that only a lifetime in the game could give.
They steal peanuts from other parents. They’ll tell a story or two in the stands. They’re as much a part of the community as any other baseball dad.
“I get a fair amount of parents who critique what I do over the years,” Heritage coach Alan McDougal said. “Most of the time I fall back on the thought that, ‘Well, this isn’t what they do for a living,’
“Well, with them, this is what these guys did for a living, and at the highest level. So they could critique some, or offer assistance, but never. If I asked, they’d do anything in the world for the baseball program, but they just like to see their kids compete. Two of the model baseball dads, and their wives have a lot to do with that.”
Greer is committed to Auburn, and his bat started to wake up a little in a series in late March against Richland.
“I just got back into the groove,” Greer said. “We’d been off for a few days. Just had to get back into it, and I started seeing it pretty well.”
It all makes for one of the most recognizable, most talented lineup cards in the state on any given Tuesday or Friday. In fact, in the latest poll, the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association has Colleyville Heritage (24-1-1, 8-0 District 8-5A) at No. 2 in Class 5A. But with No. 1 Prosper (21-3-2) dropping a game to Coppell last week, Heritage could well be the new No. 1 when this week’s poll is released.
No team in any classification has won as many games as Heritage, which has seven games left on its regular-season schedule.
“This week was the first week we were supposed to send stats in to publications, and that was literally the first time I’d looked at them,” McDougal said after a 4-3 win over Richland on March 28. “I don’t look at them. Batting average is our enemy. We’re just trying to win games. I know parents do, and colleges do and the kids do, but we’re just trying to stack a bunch of good days on top of each other.”
Two particular Heritage games, when the stats got especially gaudy, have caught wider swaths of attention. Scherff, who is 17-0 as a starter in the past two seasons, threw a five-inning perfect game March 17 in a 15-0 win against Fort Worth Eastern Hills. A week later, he threw a five-inning no-hitter against Fort Worth Dunbar. Three of Witt’s seven homers came in those two games, while pitcher/first baseman Cameron Ehringer (.390 batting average, 1.62 ERA) also homered twice.
Scherff has struck out 69 batters and walked only four while allowing only one earned run this season.
“What’s a little bit deceiving with some of the teams we play, is that at times it may not take our best to win,” said McDougal, who coached for six years under Tommy Elliott at Class 5A power Fort Worth Arlington Heights. “But if we want to accomplish the things we want to accomplish, we’re going to have to get in the habit of playing our best.”
The wealth of pitching depth at Heritage is such that one junior varsity game between the Panthers and Grapevine featured Jacob Berger, a Dallas Baptist commit, on the mound for Heritage opposite a Texas State commit on the hill for the Mustangs.
“This is where select baseball has taken us,” McDougal said.
But whoever is on the mound for Colleyville Heritage knows that runs are coming. They’ve come all year, and they’ll have to keep coming as Heritage’s regular season builds toward a showdown in the final District 8-5A series with defending Class 5A state champion Grapevine (17-7, 8-0).
“It’s just another game on the schedule when it gets here,” Scherff said. “We’ll be ready to fight them for seven innings and see who comes out on top.”
Matthew Martinez: 817-390-7667; @MCTinez817