BELTON — Through two blowout playoff games it seemed to be a mere formality that Bullard Brook Hill would defend its TAPPS 3A state baseball title.
Then came an eight-inning nail-biter Thursday and on Friday Amarillo San Jacinto rallied to within one run late in the game.
But as he did Thursday, junior Michael Greening came through for the Guard when they needed a spark.
Greening launched a three-run triple to reestablish a comfortable cushion as Brook Hill went on to repeat as state champs with an 11-6 win over the Patriots on Friday at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor’s Red Murff Field.
“We call him ‘Playoff Mikey’ — that’s his nickname,” Guard senior A.J. Minter said. “He comes through in the playoffs and he did his job.”
The Guard (28-3) led 4-0 after two innings and 7-1 heading into the sixth before the Patriots (20-5) rallied to cut their deficit to 7-6.
“There was some tension there … but we didn’t get nervous and we didn’t panic,” Brook Hill senior JB Moss said. “That’s something we haven’t done all year. We’re confident in our abilities, we’re confident in our coaches, we’re confident in each other and we knew we were going to win.”
Brook Hill responded by loading the bases with two outs in the bottom half of the frame. Greening, the No. 9 hitter, sent the 150th pitch from San Jacinto starter Aaron Vallance deep to left-center field to clear the bases.
“He’s worked his tail off; he works his tail off in the cage every day,” Moss said of Greening. “There’s not another guy who you would want to come up and be able to be the hero at the end. He deserves it and all credit goes to him. He’s a great kid.”
Greening finished the day 2 for 4 with two runs scored. Junior catcher Kendall Kerns was 2 for 3 with an RBI and two runs while Minter went 2 for 3 with an RBI double and a run.
Guard senior Travis Pirtle went 2 for 3 with two RBIs after he broke his leg in November and went through six weeks of rehab.
“It makes everything worth it — just going out here and being able to compete with my brothers and win a state championship,” he said.
Brook Hill starter Drew Robertson held the Patriots in check through five innings but was relieved after allowing the three straight singles to start the sixth.
Guard junior Quintin Pile came in and immediately gave up a two-run double to Galen Clark. San Jacinto tacked on three more on two infield singles and a balk before Pile close out the frame.
That the Patriots made a game out of it simply allowed Greening to be the hero again after he scored the game-winning run to spark a 4-0 win on Thursday.
“When you’ve got teammates like JB and A.J. as captains, they just really spark a team whether they’re hitting the ball or just in the dugout talking to you — they’re great advisors,” Greening said. “They give you that confidence to get up to the plate whether you’re having a bad game or not to get up there and do your thing. It gave us a lot of energy to come in and do that.”
Vallance gave a valiant effort on the mound for the Patriots. He went the distance throwing 157 times while mixing up four different pitches. He struck out five, walked three and hit one.
“He was a competitor and hats off to him,” Moss said.
Robertson more than doubled his season earned-run total by giving up four runs on eight hits, striking out six with no walks. The only run scored while he was on the mound came on a fielder’s choice that was a fraction of a second from a double play.
“Our goal was to win the last four games,” said Robertson, a junior. “We weren’t going to let the seniors leave without getting another ring. We hope to do the same next year.”
Junior Collin Mondrik recorded the final three outs for the Guard with two strikeouts and a ground out. Mondrik fielded the check-swing grounder and threw to first to send Brook Hill hats and gloves flying as the team celebrated the school’s fifth state championship in the last three years, adding to the trophies won in girls golf, boys golf and football.
This year, ranked No. 1 in its division from start to finish, the Guard defeated teams from every classification, including UIL Class 5A Longview and 4A and 3As like Nacogdoches and Henderson.
“It’s great,” Brook Hill coach Terry Pirtle said. “It’s hard to repeat and we did it. It was something I’m very proud of the kids that they were able to accomplish that and in the fashion that they did it beating some very competitive schools along the way.
“It’s been a total team effort all year, period. We’ve got great baseball players. There are kids that would start on any other team in East Texas sitting on our bench, waiting for their turn.”
The Guard will graduate five seniors that went to three straight state title games — Minter, Moss, Travis Pirtle, Garrett Moore and Dylan Horinek — as well as Hunter George who logged nearly 20 innings on the mound in his first year at Brook Hill.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Moss said. “It’s been a great career with two state championships, a runner-up. It’s been a journey from losing in the first round my freshman year to being a state champion again my senior year. It’s been a journey and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
Added Minter: “I couldn’t ask for anything better. It’s really special to me. I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.”
NOTES: Robertson, Minter, Greening and Kerns were named to the all-tournament from Brook Hill. O’Grady, Vallance, Taylor Fuller and Clark earned the honor from San Jacinto. From The Woodlands Christian, which lost to Brook Hill in the semifinal, pitcher Zach Heard and Drew Ross were on the team. Austin St. Dominic Savio placed Frank Nichols and Luiz Castillo on the all-tournament squad.
Bullard Brook Hill 11, Amarillo San Jacinto 6
TAPPS 3A State Championship
At Mary Hardin-Baylor’s Red Murff Field
San Jacinto 000 105 0 — 6 11 3
Brook Hill 220 304 x — 11 12 0
Aaron Vallance and Taylor Fuller. Drew Robertson, Quintin Pile (6), Collin Mondrik (7) and Kendall Kerns.
W – Robertson (8-1). L – Vallance.
2B – SJ: Brandon O’Grady 2, Galen Clark; BH: A.J. Minter, JB Moss. 3B – BH: Michael Greening.
SB – SJ: O’Grady; BH: Jonah Gonzales.
RECORDS — Brook Hill 28-3; San Jacinto 20-5.