By BRAD KEITH
GRANBURY (May 15, 2015) — It’s all on the line now. For both teams.
After splitting a doubleheader at Granbury High School Friday, Stephenville and Venus will settle the score in a rubber match at noon Saturday in Graford to determine who wins the area title and advances to the Region I-4A quarterfinals.
Stephenville took game one 6-4 behind a Brock Morrison three-run home run, Bradley Morrison two-run double and an RBI double by Ben Martin along with a complete game by Maddux Conger on the mound.
Venus bounced back, however, taking game two 5-2. The game three winner faces Graham or Decatur next week.
Navarro College signee Ben Martin led off the series with a single, Brock Morrison reached on an error, and after a fielder’s choice at third off the bat of Maddux Conger, both Morrison and courtesy runner Dominic Ward (running for Conger) scored on a 2-run double to left by junior third baseman Bradley Morrison.
Bradley’s older brother, senior shortstop Brock Morrison, launched a 3-run home run in the second, plating Ben Martin, who reached on an RBI single, and Cole Harmon, who reached on a fielder’s choice. Martin’s hit plated Kaegun Williams, and after the Morrison bomb over the wall in left, it was 6-0.
Venus finally slowed the bleeding, then almost came from behind in the sixth and seventh innings.
Conger allowed just one hit in the first three innings, had to navigate a hit batsman and a walk in the fourth and walked one with no damage in the fifth. In the sixth, however, Venus came to life, beginning with a lead-off double then consecutive singles to bring in its first run. Another scored on a fielder’s choice, before Williams made the biggest defensive play of the game in right field – a diving catch to end the inning. If it would have fallen, at least one run, likely two, would have scored.
Venus plated two more in the seventh. An infield single, a walk and a single to left loaded the bases before Conger stumbled trying to catch a popup to allow two runs to come in. It was all for nought for Venus, however, as Conger overpowered the ensuing batter for a game-ending strikeout.
Conger, who has signed with 2014 NCAA Division I champ Vanderbilt, allowed seven hits and three walks while hitting one batter and striking out three.
Venus began the game two scoring in the top of the third, but not without some controversy. Conger was out in center field in game two, and appeared to make a highlight-reel diving catch. But as he came up off the grass, the ball came out of his glove. Thinking the catch stood and the drop came after the fact, Stephenville outfielders didn’t immediately rush to field the ball and get it in, and the Venus hitter ended up on third with a leadoff triple.
The umpires held a conference after Stephenville head coach James Boxley appealed the call, but the original decision stood, and a few moments later the runner scored on a wild pitch.
Stephenville got the run back when equally abnormal circumstances favored the Jackets in the bottom of the fourth. Brock Morrison and Conger singled to begin the inning and were on third and second after a double steal. Sam Weber popped a foul down the first baseline, and just in front of the Venus dugout, the first baseman made the catch. However, the catcher ran over to help, and the pitcher did not cover home, leaving it open for Brock Morrison to tag and score on a pop up that traveled less than 90 feet.
Venus took the lead for good on a bases loaded walk in the top of the fifth, made it 4-1 on a successful squeeze play and an RBI single to center in the sixth, and eventually led 5-1 following an RBI double in the top of the seventh.
Much like Venus in the first game, Stephenville found itself on the cusp of a rally in the bottom of the seventh.
Josh Bulla singled to center to begin the inning, and Cole Harmon singled to right with one out. TWo batters later, with two outs, Alex Jimenez lined a single deep in the hole between second and third, scoring Bulla, who had moved to third on a deep fly out by Martin. That brought up Brock Morrison as the tying run, and he drove the first pitch he saw to deep right field. The Venus right fielder drifted deeper and deeper before putting the ball away just in front of the fence, ending the game and sending the series to a decisive game three.
Bulla pitched for Stephenville and surrendered four runs on seven hits while hitting three batters and walking two in six innings. He also struck out three.
Bradley Morrison took the mound in the seventh, surrendering a run on two hits and striking out one.
All photos below by BRAD KEITH/TheFlashToday.com