By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (May 4, 2016) — As he leaned against the fence protecting the Stephenville dugout from the field of play at James T. Young Baseball Field, Cole Harmon squints into the sun and laughs.
“We have nothing to prove and nothing to lose,” said Harmon, a senior pitcher and catcher for Stephenville. “Everyone thought we were going to be last in our district, we’re young, we’re inexperienced, nobody thought we would be here.”
That’s exactly what makes Stephenville dangerous, Harmon believes, as the Yellow Jackets get ready to face off with Burkburnett in the bi-district round of the Region I-4A playoffs. A doubleheader begins at 5 p.m. Friday, and game three, if necessary, is at noon on Saturday, all at Jacksboro High School.
“Every win we have at this point just shows that we’re really here to play and that we don’t care what anyone else says about us,” says Harmon.
Senior second baseman Sam Weber agrees with his classmate. Stephenville has nothing to lose.
“Just being in the playoffs with the chance to move on is all you can really ask for,” said Weber. “We’re here, now everything starts over each week.”
And for Harmon, Weber and third baseman and pitcher Bradley Morrison, each win staves off the impending end to their high school careers.
“Being my last season, this has really been special for me,” said Weber. “Especially having a new coach come in and when we were predicted last but we made the playoffs anyway, it means a lot to all of us.”
That new coach is Justin Swenson, and he’s already left his mark, according to Weber.
“He’s brought a lot of energy and his own distinct style for sure,” Weber said. “He’s aggressive in all aspects of the game, always doing whatever it takes to win.”
Swenson has been helping Harmon try and find a junior college destination so he can continue to play when his high school days are done.
“Coach Swenson and I have been looking at some junior colleges because I’d really like to continue my career in baseball,” Harmon said. “I have a couple offers, one from Midland, but if all else fails, I’ll go major in business at Texas Tech and try to walk on.”
Weber plans to attend the University of Texas and major in aerospace engineering. While he joins Harmon and Morrison in thinking about life after high school, many of the rest of the Yellow Jackets have just gotten properly acquainted with the varsity level.
That’s why Harmon and Weber are each happy to see a familiar opponent in the bi-district round. Stephenville, the third-place finisher in 6-4A, defeated Burkburnett, the runner-up in 5-4A, 6-5 back on March 19.
“There is definitely confidence just from having seen some of what they have on the mound and at the plate,” said Weber. “And as big a confidence booster as it is for us, it’s also big because they have it in their mind they lost to us before.”
“Having an inexperienced team, playing Burkburnett, a team we’ve seen before, may take some of the pressure off our young guys playing in their first playoff game, which I remember being pretty nerve wrecking,” said Harmon. “Hopefully we have the confidence to get a win streak going and move on deeper in the playoffs with momentum on our side.”
Harmon said the key is everyone handling their own role, just as they did while proving skeptics wrong throughout the district race.
“Everyone has their ups and downs, but everyone we have is also a team player who is just trying to do his best for the team,” Harmon said. “We don’t have a lot of experience, but we have a lot of guys who know their roles, they know what is expected of them and they go out and get it done.”