BY RUSSELL HUFFMAN
Stephenville gave up four runs in the first two innings before battening down the hatches and roaring back for a 6-4 Bi-District victory that gives them a 1-0 lead in their best-of-three series against Benbrook at Cleburne High School Friday evening.
Coach Justin Swenson said before the series started that he thought the two teams were very evenly matched and he wasn’t sure who he would put on the mound in an attempt to get the advantage. Swenson came up with a surprise and didn’t go with one of his workhorses but instead Cade Dunavent who had just one out shy of 16 innings of work this season and Dunavent delivered despite a shaky start.
Benbrook singled to open the game and managed to score a run on a Stephenville error to lead 1-0 after a half inning of play. It was a 4-0 game after the second inning, but that was all the runs Benbrook would muster as Dunavent settled down and threw 55 strikes through 4.1 innings of work.
Stephenville got on the scoreboard in the third inning with Clay Krause singling and advancing to second on a Dunavent’s pop fly. Gage Graham then drove Krause home fielder’s choice rap.
The Yellow Jackets liked the taste of scoring and went back to the well the next inning with Derek Gifford singling and getting driven in by the next batter up Gabe Moore when he doubled on a line drive to left field. Trevor Easter was hit by a pitch and then replaced with courtesy runner Kendal Storrs and Mason Castleberry’s sacrifice grounder advanced the runner to second and third.
Phillips was then substituted for Moore and he scored on a wild pitch. Cade Averhoff’s sacrifice fly allowed Storrs the room he needed to make it a 4-4 game. Krause and Dunavent then added singles to the mix and the Jackets began to manufacturer runs with a little trickery. It was done by luring Benbrook into a pickoff attempt of the trailing runner Dunavent (trying to steal second) and when the defense bit at the move and got distracted Krause stole home to take a 5-4 lead.
Stephenville pulled another rabbit out of its hat the next inning as Graham got to first base with a single and Gifford advanced him to third with a double-bagger. A passed ball opened up the opportunity for Graham to tack on an insurance run and a 6-4 lead for the Jackets.
Stephenville’s biggest scare came in the fifth inning when Dunavent began showing signs he was tiring and there was no wonder as to why as his pitch count was at 93. Prior to his bi-district start, Dunavent’s highest pitch count had been 50. Caleb Smith had problems with his control and walked two batters before he was pulled in favor of Daniel Luna.
The sophomore pitcher faced a daunting task with the bases loaded and Luna delivered throwing his first pitches for strikes and so did the defense when a grounder was hit to Gifford and the Jackets turned a double play to get out of the inning. Luna pitched the rest of the way giving up just one hit.
Gifford, Moore, Dunavent and Krause all came away with two hits each with Graham, Moore and Averhoff each getting one RBI.
Stephenville returns to Cleburne High School for game two Saturday at 1 pm with game three to follow if necessary.