Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Flower Mound baseball a mix of small ball, clutch pitching could end with big result at state
FLOWER MOUND – Two weeks ago, Flower Mound celebrated after a dramatic seventh-inning rally kept its season alive in the regional semifinals. On Saturday, the Jaguars dogpiled on the infield after earning their first trip to the UIL state baseball tournament in 10 years.
But this week, Flower Mound got back to the methodical, ho-hum basics at practice. The Jaguars returned to the ordinary in hopes of landing the extraordinary: the school’s first state title.
“We’re doing our same practice routines,” Flower Mound coach Danny Wallace said. “We didn’t change anything that we did last week or the week before.”
Why mess with success? The Jaguars (32-12-1) have won 15 of their last 18 games and are coming off a sweep of Flower Mound Marcus in the Class 5A Region I final.
Wallace also likes how the normal routine will remind Flower Mound that its next game, Friday’s state semifinal against Pearland (37-5) at Dell Diamond in Round Rock, isn’t any different than the Jaguars’ first 45 games of the season.
“We need to treat it like just another baseball game because that’s what it is,” said center fielder Connor Wanhanen, a senior who has signed with TCU. “We’re going to go down there focused, for sure, but we’re going to try to be loose and have as much fun as we did last weekend.”
“We’ve just got to pitch like we’ve been pitching and hit like we’ve been hitting in the playoffs,” added senior pitcher BJ Myers, a West Virginia signee. “If we play Jags baseball, I don’t see how anyone can stop us.”
A lot of Dallas-area teams have been stopped at the UIL state tournament in recent years. Since Plano West beat Southlake Carroll in the 2008 5A title game, no local team has won a game at state.
But Flower Mound has looked like a championship-caliber team in the playoffs. The Jaguars don’t have a lot of power in their lineup, but they efficiently manufacture runs and can rely on a deep pitching staff headlined by Kyle Johnston (Texas signee), Seth Jordan (West Virginia) and Myers. The winning blend has given Flower Mound a chance to do what the school’s 2004 state qualifier did – win in the semifinals – and didn’t do – win the championship.
The 2004 team was the last for Derek Matlock, who started Flower Mound’s program and coached the Jaguars for five seasons. Matlock, now assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the West Virginia baseball team, said people told him not to take the Flower Mound job because it would be at a “football school.”
But Matlock said the school, and the community, was a perfect environment for baseball success. Wallace also saw the potential when he left Georgetown to take over as Flower Mound coach after the 2012 season.
Now that potential has led to the state tournament. It’s a huge opportunity, but for Flower Mound, the strategy is still simple. Just play “Jags Baseball.”
That means executing, Wanhanen said.
“Pitchers throwing strikes, having good at-bats, winning each pitch and just taking our philosophy and putting it into game action,” the leadoff hitter said. “Doing the little things.”
Those little things could add up to something very big.