Written by Corbett Smith
UIL 5A state semis: What to watch for in Flower Mound vs. Pearland
Class 5A semifinal
FLOWER MOUND VS. PEARLAND
Noon Friday, Dell Diamond, Round Rock
Live webcast on FoxSportsSouthwest.com
Flower Mound (32-12-1): To get to the state tournament, teams typically ride an ace. Flower Mound has made its first trip to state since 2004 on the arms of three starters: Texas signee Kyle Johnston, and West Virginia signees B.J. Myers and Seth Jordan. The likely semifinal starter, Johnston (9-2, 0.53 ERA, 126 strikeouts) has been superb in Flower Mound’s playoff run, pitching a five-inning no-hitter against Flower Mound Marcus in the regional final. Myers (10-2, 1.35 ERA, 104 strikeouts) or the left-handed Jordan (6-4, 1.49 ERA, 80 strikeouts) could be called on in relief. Centerfielder Connor Wanhanen – a TCU signee – is the team’s leadoff hitter, batting .412 with 47 runs scored, 19 steals and six triples. A Sam Houston State signee, senior catcher Mitch Andrews has a .439 on-base percentage and 20 RBIs.
Pearland (37-5): The Oilers were tested in by Brazoswood in a one-game playoff for the Region III title. Pearland used four pitchers, with Brendan Owens picking up the 5-3 win in relief. Don’t be surprised to see a similar approach in the semifinals; only RHP Jake Crain (7-2, 1.19 ERA, 74 strikeouts) has pitched more than 50 innings this season. A Houston signee, Connor Wong is one of the state’s best shortstops, batting .420 with 10 home runs, 15 doubles, 51 runs scored and 39 RBIs – 19 of which have come with two outs. Senior third baseman Jacob Barfield has a team-high 40 RBIs. Pearland coach Anthony Scalise isn’t afraid to send his runners; seven Pearland players have 10 or more steals, led by UTSA signee Skyler Valentine (.342 avg., 30 runs, 17 steals).
Notable: Neither of these teams won outright district titles. Flower Mound tied Marcus with a 10-4 record in District 5-5A, but lost two of three games in the season series. Two of Pearland’s five losses were to Pasadena Dobie in District 22-5A play; Dobie lost in the first round of the 5A playoffs to Channelview. Pearland won its only baseball state title in 1980 behind all-state player Craig Smajstrla, who would later play in eight games with the Houston Astros in 1988 before becoming a major league scout.