By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (May 13, 2016) — Bradley Morrison didn’t want to see his high school career come to an end, so he bought himself another day.
With it comes the chance to extend that to another week, with who knows what beyond there in the wild world of high school baseball playoffs.
Morrison doubled to the center field wall to drive in two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, then earned the save in the seventh as Stephenville (16-15) staved off elimination with a 2-1 win over Decatur (22-9) at Graford High School Friday evening. Deactur won the Region I-4A area series opener, 4-3, in eight innings Thursday. Game three is set for 1 p.m. Saturday, also at Graford.
Stephenville’s bats were silent most of the night against Decatur ace Jaxon Terrell, but he beaned freshman catcher Cody Storrs, then allowed him to take second on a wild pitch.
Terrell turned the mound over to freshman southpaw Wilson Hicks, who promptly allowed an infield single to Cole Harmon on a hard bouncer deep in the hole at short. Storrs stayed at second, but it didn’t matter with Morrison’s clutch two-out hit turning the game – and potentially the series – around.
It saved Stephenville’s season. Or at least extended it a day.
Harmon pitched the first six innings, allowing just one run in the top of the first. Storrs and the Yellow Jacket infield were Harmon’s best friends, turning two key double plays. Storrs exploded out of his crouch behind home plate to catch a popped up bunt then doubed off a runner at first for one double play, while freshman Derek Gifford added another in similar fashion when he dove to snare a line drive then doubled off another unsuspecting base runner.
But it may have been the final double play, the most basic of the three, that stands out the most. It did win the game, after all.
Morrison, as he has often done, made his save opportunity an interesting one, hitting a batter with a pitch after the leadoff man beat out an infield single to begin the seventh. But the senior and three-year varsity standout shrugged off the pressure getting a strikeout and a ground ball to set up the game-winning play.
Gifford fielded it cleanly and scooped it to Weber, who drug his foot across the bag at second and fired onto first baseman Caleb Gibbons just in time for a game-ending double play, the third for Stephenville and sixth total in a series that has predominantly featured defensive highlights.
Decatur turned double plays in each of the first two innings as the clubs combined for five in the game.
It was fitting for Gibbons to make the final put out at first. He pitched almost six strong innings Thursday, and left leading 3-1, only to see two other runners that he left on base cross home plate as he watched helplessly from first base. it’s been an unfortunate norm for Gibbons, a junior, who has had numerous quality starts but few decisions this season.
The rest is history. Decatur went on to win in eight, and for much of game two, it appeared Terrell had the Eagles cruising to what most expected – an area championship. Stpehenville, however, has been proving pundits wrong all year, placing third in 6-4A after being picked to finish last, then upsetting 5-4A runner-up Biurkburnett with a two-game sweep in the bi-district round last week.
Thanks to a Friday the 13th twist by Morrison and the strong Stephenville infield, the Jackets will now play for the right to continue a playoff journey they were widely expected to never begin.