Southlake Carroll’s Justin Grech hadn’t played for three weeks before taking the field at the UIL State Tournament. The junior suffered a broken hand back in round three of the playoffs and wasn’t sure if he’d be able to help the Dragons in their quest to defend their championship.
He got doctor’s clearance just before the tournament and is now the MVP of the 6A State Championship. Grech, who hit in the nine-hole, went 1-for-1 with a walk and a sacrifice fly to drive in a team-high three RBI in Carroll’s 17-0 rout of Ridge Point.
“This is absolutely surreal,” Grech said. “Ever since I was a little kid I just wanted to win a state championship with the Dragons and getting the MVP is just icing on the cake, it’s absolutely amazing. I really wanted to play and thankfully got the doctor’s clearance and I just went out there and battled my heart out.”
The Dragons needed just nine hits to earn their second-straight championship and rewrite the history books. Carroll broke two 6A baseball state tournament records on Saturday– the most runs scored in a single inning with its 11-run third (previously eight in 1951, ’56 and ’65) and the most runs scored in a game with 17 (previously 15 in 1951).
Ridge Point provided plenty of assistance to break those records. The Panthers pitching staff struggled from the start as five pitchers combined to issue nine walks and the defense committed six errors.
Carroll took advantage of every miscue and never lost focus despite the one-sided contest, which is true to form for a Larry Vucan led squad.
“You can never take your foot of the gas, especially in a game like this because you never want to make history because somebody came back on you, so we kept our foot on the gas and were able to put up a lot of runs,” Grech said.
Senior pitcher Joe Steeber was solid on the mound for the Dragons. He pitched a complete game shutout with four hits, three walks and five strikeouts.
“He was incredible,” Vucan said of Steeber. “He took the challenge and attacked the strike zone and did exactly what we were hoping he’d do. Phenomenal performance.”
Though success on the big stage is nothing new to the Southlake Carroll program, this title is a little sweeter for the Dragons due to them being counted out in the preseason. Carroll lost all but three of its starters from the 2018 state championship team, and with realignment putting the Dragons in one of the toughest districts in the state, some did not expect much success from the team this season.
“I think our kids just had a date with destiny,” Vucan said. “I think after us not getting picked to make playoffs in our district by some people the kids got a little upset and fired up and went to work.”
Carroll left no doubt who the best team in the state still is by finishing an undefeated playoff run with a dog pile at Dell Diamond once again.
6A State Championship MVP: Justin Grech, Jr, OF (1-for-1, walk, sac fly, 3 RBI)