They departed Colleyville Heritage’s field on April 29 with one thought: they wanted to see each other again.
Now, they will.
Following four grinding weeks of playoff baseball, Grapevine and Colleyville Heritage play in arguably the largest athletic event to ever involve the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District.
Colleyville Heritage (37-4) and Grapevine (30-11) meet in the Class 5A Region I championship series for the right to advance to the state tournament.
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I’m not going to lie. I was watching their scores all the time. It’s going to be intense.
- Colleyville Heritage starting pitcher Michael Stanford, on following rival Grapevine’s progress
“I thought about [meeting them again],” Grapevine senior right-hander Connor Neuman said. “That was kind of the goal. It’s exciting that it’s here. I think it’s going to put our baseball on the map even more.”
Huge crowds are expected at Dallas Baptist University for this best two-of-three series. Friday’s opener begins at 8 p.m. Saturday’s second game is scheduled for 2 p.m. A potential deciding third game would begin at 5 p.m.
This is what everyone had long wanted.
“I’m not going to lie. I was watching their scores all the time,” Colleyville Heritage right-hander Michael Stanford said. “It’s going to be intense. But we have to do a good job of treating this like any other game.”
Grapevine is looking for a second consecutive state championship. Colleyville Heritage, making its deepest postseason run in school history, is pushing toward its first appearance in Round Rock.
“We’re on the doorstep,” Colleyville Heritage coach Alan McDougal said. “This group has already left its mark on the program because we’re in a place we’ve never been. But there is still another goal.”
Grapevine won what turned out to be a series in the final week of the regular season. The Mustangs won the third game, 6-3. The difference was Grapevine taking advantage of runners in scoring position and Colleyville Heritage missing those chances.
If the path to arrive to this weekend means anything, the Panthers have had the better of it. They are 8-1 in the postseason but had to win two elimination games against Justin Northwest in the regional quarterfinals. Grapevine has been pushed a little more going 7-3. The Mustangs had to win elimination games against Sherman, Aledo and then two against Amarillo this past weekend in the regional semifinals.
There should not be any gotcha moments in this series. A majority of these players have grown up playing with and against each other going back to youth ball days. This is simply going to be about which team plays better and catches the right breaks.
Both lineups are streaking. Colleyville Heritage is averaging nine runs per game in its last four. Grapevine is averaging seven.
However, depth on each pitching staff will determine which program will survive. Both teams have a wealth of pitching. Colleyville Heritage’s team earned-run average is 1.56. Grapevine’s is 1.78.
In fact, both McDougal and Grapevine coach Steve Hutcherson likely will keep their rotations the same. Colleyville Heritage has gone Stanford (6-1, 1.21 ERA) and Alex Scherff (14-0, 0.80) for the first two games. Cameron Ehringer (6-1, 1.60) pitched Game 3 against Northwest.
Grapevine is expected to go with Neuman (7-3, 0.80) in the opener, followed by Max Gehler (2-3, 1.90). Boone Montgomery (5-1, 2.95) would start the third game. Gehler moved to the second starting spot because of need. Third baseman Ryan Drake has been limited to hitting because of a shoulder injury he suffered in the first Colleyville Heritage series. No. 2 starter Brett Squires has been playing third base.
“It will be fun,” Hutcherson said. “I love it and hate for both of us. One has to lose. But the GCISD will be represented at the state tournament. It’s been a great year for baseball in this district.”