By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (May 3, 2016) — Pitchers and catchers have to be on the same page, sure.
But Julia Flores and Jennie Winstead take it a step further, even finishing each other’s sentences at times.
“We have our own language I think, like she can tell what I’m thinking,” says Flores, but before the sophomore pitcher can finish, Winstead, the freshman catcher, pipes in with, “Yeah I think we just read each other’s facial expressions, then we’ll nod and we know we got it. It really is our own language for sure.”
Flores and Winstead aren’t only growing closer together, they are helping lead the Stephenville softball program to new heights. Like winning the school’s first outright district championship in the sport. And advancing past the bi-district round for just the second time, the first under fifth-year head coach Rus Mayes.
“It’s not just us, we have a great team behind us,” Flores pointed out. “It’s really good to know that we have people we trust backing us up.”
Flores and Winstead aren’t just a battery for Stephenville. They are the battery. As in the only one. They are two of six players who have been in all 32 games for the Bees, both starting in every one.
“We played select ball together, but weren’t always this close because we didn’t always pitch and catch together,” says Winstead. “Now I feel like Julia is one of my best friends because we’ve been working every game closely together.”
With record-setting results.
Stephenville (23-9) has set a program record for wins, and Flores has been the pitcher of record in every game. She has pitched all but two innings this season and is a safe bet to throw every important inning this weekend.
Stephenville faces Alvarado in a best-of-three series with a doubleheader starting at 5:30 p.m. Friday and game three, if needed, at 10 a.m. Saturday, all at Glen Rose. It’s just the second time Stephenville has reached the area round.
Flores says Winstead’s work behind the plate has benefited her greatly in her second varsity season.
“She has helped me so much – framing, blocking, everything,” says Flores, a statement met by a friendly roll of the eyes from her freshman battery mate.
“She’s a great pitcher, she can do it all, she really can,” Winstead says. “She doesn’t make me work too hard.”
Flores has amassed 167.1 innings with a strong 2.05 earned run average and 210 strikeouts compared to 161 hits and just 34 walks.
Winstead, meanwhile, has a team-leading .986 fielding percentage behind the plate.
“We couldn’t be this successful if we weren’t close, because pitching and catching goes hand-in-hand,” Flores said. “I can’t do what I do without her.”
They both know doing what they do will be much more difficult against Alvarado than in last week’s 19-0 bi-district shelling of Wichita Falls Hirschi.
Alvarado defeated Stephenville twice early in the season, winning both in its final at bat.
“I’m kind of nervous because they have beaten us twice, but at the same time I know we have gotten a lot better since we played them,” said Winstead.
Flores looks forward to the elevated competition.
“I like having competition and pressure, no matter what it is,” the sophomore said. “I could be pitching next to an 18-year old who is two feet taller than me and I want to beat her any way I can.”
Flores is quite the competitor from the batter’s box, as well, hitting .376 with 29 RBI and 10 doubles. Winstead is respectable at the plate herself, hitting .261 with 18 RBI.
The tandem will be up to their usual tricks to keep each other loose while facing the pressure of trying to lead Stephenville to its first-ever area title.
“Before the game we long throw together just the two of us, and I hit her in the head before every inning and give her a high five after every inning whether it’s three-up, three-down or if we give up five runs,” Flores said.
Again, Winstead couldn’t help but finish her pitcher’s thoughts.
“And we always share a big hug after every game, no matter what,” added the freshman.
They’re hoping for two happy hugs – and a bit of school history – this weekend.
“I think it’s going to be awesome. We’re so young that just getting here will be huge for us next year,” Flores said. “But to get through this weekend, to win, it would be huge, and I believe if we play like we know how, that we can do it.”