I traveled to Nederland and caught the first four innings of the  Orangefield/Nederland warm-up game. Orangefield’s outfield exhibited outstanding defense. Corey Huckabay chased down two deep fly balls and Jacob Brown made a nice diving catch in left.

Orangefield’s outfield will only get better with Derrick Evans returning from basketball. Jace Statum and Chase Angelle each pitched two innings. Three hits were recorded along with four strike outs, one walk, and four runs came in to score. Orangefield scored their first run in the first inning. Statum reached on an error, advanced to third, and scored on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Huckabay. The Bobcats scored their second run in the third. Jake Best reached first on an error, followed by a sac bunt from Statum.

A walk was issued to Jacob Felts and then Angelle hit an RBI single, scoring Best. After I left, the Bobcats had a five run inning and held off the Bulldogs to a nine to eight final. Orangefield finished their last practice game against Buna, and won their home opener against Liberty 16-1. Orangefield will compete in the Lumberton Tournament starting Thursday.

 Orangefield had their Meet the Bobcats/20th year anniversary of the 1990 state semi-finalist team. Coach Bennett said it went well.

They talked about the additions to the baseball complex and introduced each member of the 2010 baseball program, as well as the assistant coaches. Then they introduced the members of the 1990 state semi-finalist team. Coach Bennett read a statement that Coach Tom Collins, current coach at Round Rock Stony Point, wrote about that year. He thanked the alumni for coming back to share memories with the current varsity team. They had a brisket plate lunch that served as a fundraiser for the baseball program.

Afterward, everyone just kind of hung around and talked about “the good ole’ days” Coach Bennett said, “It was a neat experience for my kids to see these guys and for them to hear about what they had to say and the sacrifices that they made to get to Austin.”

 I had the privilege to interview former Orangefield standout Jeff Granger. While playing football at Orangefield, Granger was All district his junior and senior years along with being selected All-American his senior year. He ran track for the Bobcats and holds the school record in the 400m with a 48.6, prompting him towards a third place finish at the state meet. In baseball Granger was All State and the 21-3a MVP for two years. In his senior year he posted a 16-1 record, with a 41 game hitting streak, which is still a state record. At the time, it was one game short of tying the National Record. Granger was also selected to the All-State tournament team. He played football and baseball for Texas A&M. Granger started at quarterback for the Aggies and had a 8-0 record.

In Baseball for the Aggies, Granger was a two time All-American, had a World Series win against Kansas and was selected to the World Series all-tournament team. He was regional and conference MVP. Granger had the record for most strike outs in a game, 21 against Dallas Baptist and a SWC record for most conference strike outs, passing Roger Clemens. He received the Golden Spike Finalist Award, which is given to the best college player in Division I. Granger was drafted in the first round, fifth overall pick by the Kansas City Royals. He played both for Kansas City and the Pittsburg Pirates. I had the privilege to ask him a few questions.

 Granger is currently a financial advisor for Chase Bank in Colleyville (Between Dallas and Fort Worth). When I brought up a particular high school game that I remembered when he had 21 strike outs and asked him to elaborate on that he said “Yes the 21 K’s were against SFA, a nine inning game that we won 2-1.”  I then asked him about his best high school memory. He answered with this story “With two outs in the regional finals, I called my best friend Neil Nugent to the mound and asked him if he was ready to go to state. He said yes, so I told him ground ball to you for the last out. The next pitch was a ground ball to Neil and we went to State.”

That answer led to his favorite college memory, which he was unable to narrow down to one. He replied by saying, “ I have two. The first is my Friday night win over T.U. (Sorry Texas fans and Jacob) to clinch the Conference title with two games left to go and that night was also Ron Johnson’s 400th Win. The second was pitching in the regional finals at College Station against North Carolina for a trip to the College World Series.” His best pro memory was the first hit he gave up. The batter happened to be Ken Griffey Jr. He interjected “it was not a home run  though.” When asked about Orangefields’s #4 preseason rank he said he was “Excited and proud for those guys. I hope they go at least one more round than we did in the state tourney.” He had a very high opinion of the two Division 1 signees on the Bobcats this year. “I have not seen them, but Bobby (Orangefield assistant baseball coach and Granger’s brother) has told me about them. Jacob Felts (Texas), I’ve heard this guy has a great work ethic and strong baseball skills. He is a big guy and will make a big target to throw to; he also calls a good game behind the plate. Jace Statum (A&M), I heard this kid can flat fly. He reminds me of a few guys I played with in my career, fast and hits with power, a strong arm, and a very big threat to steal a base at any time. I wish the best for both of them in their baseball futures and remember to represent Orangefield and South East Texas well.”

Towards the end of his interview he gave some solid advice to any future college baseball players. “Go to class and as far as baseball, do not forget that there is always someone behind you to take your spot, so never take a day off.” 

Granger accomplished his dream to making it to “the show” in baseball, but I wondered if he thought he could have made it as a NFL quarterback? He replied “I never really thought about it but I do know throwing a baseball is a lot better than getting my head ripped off by a huge defensive lineman.” I closed the interview with probably the most difficult question. I warned him to be careful with his answer before I asked him. “What happened to your brother?”

He responded with, “He is doing something he loves in coaching and to coach at the school where you graduated is probably a bonus. But most importantly he taught me everything i know!” then he jokingly added, “Was that a good answer Bobby? Don’t forget to make the check payable to Jeff Granger.”

 Bridge City’s pitching staff looks like it’s getting dialed in. With some help from some fine defensive plays, the Cardinals did not let PNG score. They played eight innings of baseball. Cody Quigley made a fine catch in left field to stop a scoring threat and Evan Boren laid out at first to stop a base hit. With a runner on first, PNG hit a deep fly ball to left center that was heading to the wall.

Cameron Dishon chased it down and made an ‘ESPN’ top ten catch. The runner was half way to third when Dishon made the catch. They doubled him up at first, stopping another PNG threat. Forrest Zoch pitched three fine innings giving up three hits, striking out three, and  picking off one at first. Mitchel Hubbard came in for the fourth and fifth innings. He gave up one hit, struck out two, and also picked someone off at first. Matt Hicks pitched the sixth and seventh doing what he does best, striking out four, walking two and giving up one hit. Freshman Hayden Guidry pitched the last inning while giving up one hit, striking out one and walking one. The Cardinals offense got their first hit in the fourth. Matt Menard, Zach Smith, and Brandon Simoneaux started the inning off with singles.

Simoneaux’s recorded an RBI. Hicks stepped up and slapped a two run scoring double, with Smith and Simoneaux crossing the plate to kick off a three run inning. Bridge City scored their final run in the sixth. Simoneaux walked, stole second, advanced to third on a pass ball and scored on Hicks second double. Zoch added a single in the frame. Dylan Mulhollan added a single in the seventh and Hicks had his third hit in the eighth. Bridge City played their last practice game against LCM. They were defeated by Nederland in their home opener 11-4. They will compete in the Lumberton Tournament starting the 25th.

 West Orange and Vidor played a good scrimmage Friday the 19th. They played nine innings of baseball. Vidor started with a three run first inning. Jonathan Neal led off the game with a single. I got to see my first homerun of the year off the bat of Hunter Hagler hitting in the third spot for Vidor. Trae Hester reached first on an error, then Bubba Maxwell hit an RBI single. Tyler Aasley added a single in the second inning. Vidor scratched for two more runs in the third. Joe Mojica led off with a single, followed by Hagler’s second hit, a double. Trae Hester had a fielders choice RBI, and then Michael Hester hit a sacrifice fly RBI. Maxwell added his second single of the game also. The Pirates scored their last run in the ninth.

Maxwell walked, Matt Peno hit a double followed by two walks to Randall Robertson and Jordan Olbrich. Olbrich’s walk recorded their last RBI. The pitching duties were shared by Hunter Hagler, Vincent Armstrong, Matt Peno, Curtis Watkins, Colby Scrilla and Trae Hester. Vidor’s tournament begins Feb. 25. 

West Orange scored their first run in the 5th. Zach Drouillard reach first on a fielders choice, advanced to second on a pass ball and scored on a Taylor Turley single. The Mustangs scored their second run in the 8th. Drouillard hit a double and scored on Turley’s second RBI with a single to center. Jordan Darnall added a base hit in the contest also. The pitching duties were shared by Zane Anderson, Zach Drouillard, Taylor Turley and Jordan Darnall. West Orange played Jasper Monday but came up short 6-4. The Mustangs will compete in the Vidor Tournament. 

LCM had their final two warm up games against Jasper and Bridge City. They played Kelly Monday and were defeated 2-1, in a game that took twelve innings to decide. LCM will host their tournament starting Feb. 25.