It was just the kind of tense, well-played baseball game Heritage (Colleyville)
coach Alan McDougal expected when his Panthers took on their biggest rival, Grapevine, with the District 6-5A lead at stake.
What McDougal didn't expect was the odd ending to his team's thrilling 4-3 victory in nine innings last Tuesday before a packed grandstand at Heritage.
The winning run, in the person of Alex Alvarenga
, scored from second base on a wind-blown, two-out popup to shallow left field off the bat of Preston Palmeiro
, the son of former major leaguer Rafael Palmeiro.
That victory, along with subsequent wins by Heritage and Grapevine on Friday, have the two rivals from the Grapevine-Colleyville school district tied atop the district standings with 9-1 records.
For engineering his team's reentry in the league race, McDougal was selected as the Dallas High Yield Coach of the Week presented by Capital One Bank.
"When you think about what is at stake and you factor in the wind, the height of the ball and three guys coming together, it wasn't a routine play,'' said McDougal afterward.
The level of baseball that preceded the final play was top-notch.
"I really thought we were going to play a good game. Pitchers were making pitches and guys were making great plays for both teams,'' said McDougal, who owns a 194-72 record at Heritage.
Alvarenga doubled with one out in the bottom of the ninth. Cody Thomas
, the area's home run leader with 10 and a University of Oklahoma football signee as a quarterback, was intentionally walked. After an infield popup for the second out, Palmeiro, a left-handed hitter just like his dad, faced Grapevine reliever Connor McGuire.
With an opposite-field swing, Palmeiro lofted a high fly to shallow left. The left fielder, third baseman and shortstop were in range to make the catch, but the wind made it difficult. The ball came out of the glove of a diving Grapevine defender when he contacted the ground. Running all the way, Alvargenga raced to the plate for the deciding run.
Heritage (16-10-1) trailed 1-0 through three, tied the game in the fourth (1-1) and in fifth (2-2) before taking its first lead with a run in the sixth.Carey Althouse
doubled to open the Panthers' sixth and McDougal got a successful sacrifice bunt from Ryan Ramsey
to move the go-ahead run to third. When the next hitter, Jason Adams
, squared around for an apparent squeeze bunt, McGuire uncorked a wild pitch for the run that gave the Panthers a 3-2 lead.
"We're mostly a senior ball club, but it sure was nice to see some of the younger guys come through,'' McDougal said.
Alvarenga is a sophomore. Althouse and Ramsey are juniors.
An out from defeat in the bottom of the seventh, Grapevine (19-8-1) got a clutch RBI single from Zach Kornely for the run that sent the game into extra innings.
Grapevine's Satchel Goodwin, the son of former major leaguer Tom Goodwin, had a hit, scored a run and made an excellent running catch in center field.
It was an avenging victory for Heritage, which lost to Grapevine 10-1 on the road earlier in the district campaign.
We didn't show the same ability to battle in the game at Grapevine,'' McDougal said. "Now, we have control back in our hands.''
McDougal, originally from Sherman, graduated from Baylor and played two years for the Bears baseball team. His first coaching job was at Boswell (Fort Worth) followed by two stints at Arlington Heights (Fort Worth). He was a head coach for a year at Commerce in between Arlington Heights stops.
McDougal teaches math at Heritage in addition to his coaching duty. Alan and wife Britt, also a teacher, have a 4-year-old son, Jaxon.