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Great Expectations: Heath gets state title
June 8, 2012By David McNabb of VYPE MAGAZINE - DFW
ROUND ROCK _ Rockwall-Heath seemingly has been on the verge of a state baseball title since it opened in 2005. Expectations were met with a 10-1 victory over Cleburne in the Class 4A state championship at Dell Diamond before 3,017 on Friday night.
Heath, which has been state and nationally ranked for three years, reached its first state tournament and, after three years with near hits, Heath (36-9) won with a convincing 12-hit win over Cleburne (30-11). Senior right-hander Jovan Hernandez pitched a four-hit, complete game, hit a 2-run home run and had an RBI single. Hernandez was selected the championship game MVP.He needed just 79 pitches for the win. He struck out five with one walk.
Heath is 138-31-1 over the last four years. In the last half of this season, Heath is 19-3, including an 11-2 run in seven rounds of the state playoffs. Heath competes in arguably the state's strongest district with Rockwall, Highland Park, McKinney North, Wylie and Wylie East. The Hawks' playoff path included advancing past highly regarded Frisco Centennial, Whitehouse and Frisco Wakeland.
"The expectations worked against us a little bit," Heath coach Greg Harvey said. "We were ranked No. 2 (in the state) right out of the gate. I don't think it was until halfway through district that we really got focused on what our goal was. We have been playing great baseball until then. This has been a fun group to coach. They are confident enough to be relaxed. I think they enjoyed being here. But, when it was time to play, you could see their focus in their faces."
In the state final, it was a 2-run homer by Hernandez down the line in left, gave Heath a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the third. No. 8 hitter, junior outfielder Russell Hughes, doubled past third for a 2-run double to make it 5-1 Heath after four. Senior second baseman Grayson Lewis gave Heath a 7-1 in the bottom of the fifth as he lined a 2-run, 2-out single to right
Hernandez made it 8-1 in the bottom of the sixth with a single up the middle. Junior Bret Boswell and Timbo Duncan (Coast Guard Academy) made it 10-1 with run-scoring singles.Duncan ended 3-for3 with 2 RBI along with two RBI for Hughes and Lewis. Freshman DH Clayton Rasbeary lined two doubles hitting in the No. 9 spot.
Hernandez was been a 4-year star in Heath’s recent success. Heath had reached three consecutive regional finals before getting past Frisco Wakeland this year. Hernandez (5-10, 200) was a big part of the success. He’s also a 2-year starter at linebacker and played running back in football.
As a junior in 2011, Hernandez tied a 21-year-old state high school baseball hitting streak with a 42-game hitting streak. Former Texas A&M standout Jeff Granger Orangefield set the record in 1990,
He was disappointed in not getting drafted earlier this week but pro scouts say Hernandez is extremely valuable and versatile, he doesn’t project strongly as a pitcher/catcher/third baseman. Hernandez could change minds with a strong two seasons at Navarro College. Hernandez has been a varsity contributor since he was a freshman in both sports.
"i didn't know Jovan would hit a 2-run homer or even pitch a complete game," Harvey said. "But I knew he'd play well. He always does when it's gametime."
Rockwall, opening its second high in the last decade, has blossomed in North Texas as a baseball hotbed. Heath has been to three-consecutive 4A Region Finals before making its first trip to the state tourney. Rockwall HS reached the 2005 Class 5A state final before losing to Kingwood. Rockwall can only imagine the team it would have if it would have gone with one, big high school. In addition to Thompson, Heath senior standout Jovan Hernandez (Navarro College) and shortstop Boswell (already a Class of '13 commit to Texas), Rockwall HS had catcher Steve Bean selected as the 59th player in the draft and teammate Spencer Edwards taken in the second round.
Heath had lost to fallen short of the state tournament with playoff losses to powerful teams. In 2011, Heath lost to Mesquite Poteet in the regional final and Wakeland in the 2010 regional final. In 2009, Heath lost to eventual state champ Texarkana Texas High in the regional semifinals.
Cleburne senior starter German Hernandez (8-4) was a back-to-back starter, but only because he got the hook so quickly in a semifinal against Lake Travis. Cleburne got a timely hit from senior second baseman Conner Martyniuk but mainly relied on a Lake Travis meltdown to rally for a 9-7 victory in eight innings after trailing 6-0 through four innings.
Cleburne took a short-lived 1-0 lead over Heath in the second inning as junior DH Tucker Nolen had an RBI single. The Yellow Jackets have an old-school, traditional look with an old-school, feisty coach in Ross Taylor, who has been there since 1996. He’ll get on some players but the Yellow Jackets (a 2-word Jacket) have responded. Best description of a team which has upset Wichita Falls Riders, Waco Midway and Lake Travis in the playoffs was by longtime Cleburne Times Review reporter Pete Kendall was “stubborn.” Athletically, junior first baseman Quade Coward is the Jackets’ quarterback and the outfield of senior Cooper Walls, junior left fielder Nick Woodall and freshman right fielder Stevan Martinez is the team strength with offense and defense. Freshman shortstop Tyler Fowler is a good hitter, solid fielder but needs more arm strength at short.
Cleburne has its third state tourney appearance. Cleburne has ties to Dell Diamond with former major league and UT star Spike Owen an alumnus now coaching with the Round Rock Express. Cleburne had a heart-breaking loss in the '04 state semis with Denton Ryan getting a walk-off homer from future major leaguer Austin Jackson.
Rockwall-Heath Trivia: Leave you with one last nugget. Heath coach Greg Harvey played at Garland ('86) before heading off to Seminole JC and professional baseball. The head football coach at Garland when Harvey played: Rockwall ISD Athletic Director/Rockwall HFC Scott Smith.