By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (May 12, 2016) — Stephenville has already exceeded the expectations of many on the diamond this spring.
The Yellow Jackets were picked last in their district, yet they finished third. By seedings, they were underdogs in bi-district last week, but they swept Burkburnett, 7-2 and 9-7, to move on to the area round, somewhere few thought Stephenville would be.
Now the Jackets (15-14) are set to take on 8-4A district champ Decatur (21-8). Game one is 7:30 p.m. Thursday with games two and three, if needed, in doubleheader format beginning at 5 p.m. Friday, all at Graford High School.
Senior third baseman Brad Morrison doesn’t see a reason the Yellow Jackets can’t continue to silence their doubters, and, more importantly, continue their season and his career.
Decatur is fresh off a 7-5, 7-5 sweep of Kennedale, and first-year Stephenville head coach Justin Swenson was there to scout the second game with his staff. He also had a scout at their first game.
“They’re good, they play solid baseball and don’t make a lot of mistakes, but they aren’t overpowering,” Swenson said. “They want to play small ball and rely heavily on their 3-4-5 hitters. They’re trying to put a few runs on the board and rely on their pitching and defense.”
And the pitching is good, Swenson explains.
“They’re pitchers are good with their location and movement,” Swenson said. “We had a gun on all three of their main pitchers against Kennedale and they were 80-83 (miles per hour), so they aren’t overpowering, they’re just solid, a lot like their whole team.”
Morrison knows the plan, as it has been all year for Swenson and Stephenville, is to put the pressure on Decatur.
“(Swenson) likes to be aggressive and put pressure on the other team, force them to make plays,” said Morrison. “He’s brought a lot of positive energy and aggression.”
The success of this Stephenville team with only three seniors may have surprised some pundits, but playoff journeys are no longer a stranger to Stephenville. Not like in 2009 when the Jackets reached the post season for the first time in 28 years in what is now Class 5A.
Stephenville reached the regional quarterfinals in 2009 and again in 2011, then dropped to what is now 4A and reached the regional final in 2012, the regional quarterfinals in 2013 and 2014 and was beat out by Venus in the bi-district round in 2015.
Morrison had brothers – Trent then Brock – who were stars on some of those Stephenville teams.
“Following in their footsteps is kind of cool,” he said. “It’s nice to get to enjoy some of the same success they have had.”
Some of those Yellow Jacket teams weren’t supposed to go far, either. But Morrison watched as they continued to impress.
Now, it’s his turn. And his coach believes Stephenville will have every opportunity to advance again.
“They’re good, we’re going to have to play good baseball, no doubt about it,” said Swenson. “But they aren’t unbeatable, and we sure aren’t afraid of them, I’ll tell you that.”