KENNEDALE — Aggressive, fundamental baseball got the Stephenville High School baseball team this far, and head coach Justin Swenson aims to keep it that way.
The Yellow Jackets eliminated Kennedale Saturday afternoon in the bi-district round of the Class 4A playoffs with a 6-4 triumph in eight innings. That, paired with Fridaynight’s 7-2 victory over Kennedale in Stephenville, moved Stephenville into the area playoff round against Sweetwater.
“We executed everything in this inning,” SHS head coach Justin Swenson said after his team’s two-run rally Saturday in the eighth inning to put away the Wildcats. “We were over-aggressive, and it paid off. We’re not going to change our style.”
In Friday’s win in Game 1 of the series at Kennedale, the Jackets got six innings of quality work from starting pitcher Easton Jones. He allowed just three hits, struck out 12 and walked two. Caleb Smith worked the final two frames and did not allow a hit.
The Yellow Jackets (21-7-2) will take on Sweetwater (12-14) in a best-of-three series to be played at Abilene Christian University’s Crutcher Scott Field in Abilene. Game is set set for 4 p.m. Thursday. Game 2 is scheduled for a noon start on Friday. If a third game is needed, it will start at noon on Saturday.
The Mustangs, the third-place team out of District 5-4A, advanced with their 2-1 decision over Burkburnett in a one-game bi-district playoff.
“We’re just going to play our game — stay aggressive on the bases, with timely hitting, good pitching and defense,” Swenson said after his team scored two runs in the top of the eighth inning, making Luke Bullard the winning pitcher in relief.
Swenson noted that Kennedale sailed through its district schedule, winning nine of its 10 games. Meanwhile, Stephenville was the fourth-place team in District 8-4A, which appears to have been a tougher level of play that was to the Jackets’ advantage according to Swenson.
“I told our players after the game that every game in district came down to the wire,” said Swenson, who has three sophomores in the starting lineup. “We’ve been tested.”
In Saturday’s deciding win over Kennedale, the Yellow Jackets used three pitchers who gave up nine hits in all.
Bullard worked two hitless innings for Stephenville and did not give up a walk.
Caleb Gibbons started on the mound and allowed two runs on six hits with four strikeouts and four walks in six innings. He was relieved by Caleb Smith, who gave up two runs on three hits before Bullard moved to the mound with runners on first and second with no outs.
Stephenville led the Wildcats 4-2 going into the seventh, but Kennedale picked up a pair of runs to tie it, 4-4.
In the two-run top of the eighth that clinched the victory, Derek Gifford’s single got past Kennedale’s right fielder for a two-base error. Gibbons’ RBI single brought in Gifford to give the Jackets a 5-4 edge. Gatlin Wells later came through with a single to center that scored the final run.
Stephenville had eight hits in all in Saturday’s game, including two by Cody Storrs. Kade Averhoff recorded a team-leading two RBI for the Jackets.
In Friday’s win, Stephenville got two RBI apiece from Trevor Easter and Averhoff. Storrs went 2-for-4 at the plate in both games.