Stephenville pitcher Dominick Jokel recovered nicely after struggling early to strike out 11 Granbury hitters, but it wasn't enough as the Yellow Jackets fell, 5-2, in the District 8-4A opener for both schools at SHS Tuesday night.
Granbury built a 3-0 lead in the first, as Jokel, a sophomore, struggled with his fast ball. The Pirates got runners on with a single, a hit batsmen and a walk before a single to right and an error put the Jackets in an early hole.
Jokel took over from that point forward, using his breaking ball to keep the Granbury hitters off balance for the next five innings.
"He spotted his breaking stuff exceptionally well," Stephenville head coach Steve Carroll said of Jokel's performance. "He struggled a little with his fast ball at times, but used it just enough to let them know he had it."
Stephenville cut into the deficit with single runs in both the third and fourth innings, both scored by Brad Picha.
Picha reached on an error in the third, advanced to second on a wild pitch then scored on a two-out RBI single by Nick Young, who also had a double and a hard lineout.
In the fourth, Picha again reached base on an error, this time when he hit a double play ball that was thrown away on the relay from second to first. He moved to second on the throwing error, advanced to third on a ground out by Jokel, then scored on a wild pitch.
Both Stephenville runs were unearned, and the Jackets had only three total hits - the two by Young and a single by Reese Robinson.
"We hit the ball hard several times, but we had like four hard lineouts that were hit right at people," Carroll said. "The main thing is, we're putting the ball in play and we're playing hard. We only had six guys strike out. If we can continue to put the ball in play and get some better breaks on the bases, we believe we can compete with anyone in this district."
Garrett Autrey took over for Jokel on the hill in the seventh and allowed a pair of insurance runs to give the game its final tally. Autrey also struck out the side in the inning, giving the Stephenville pitchers a combined 14 strikeouts on the night.
"You never want to lose your first district game, but I think there are a lot of competitive teams in this league and its going to be an interesting race," Carroll said.
The Yellow Jackets break from 8-4A action and travel to Brownwood for tournament play this weekend. They meet Lampasas and Fredericksburg today before completing pool play against Brownwood Friday night. Bracket play will be held on Saturday.