An error-riddled first inning came back to haunt Stephenville Saturday afternoon when a furious seventh-inning rally came up just short in a 5-4 loss to Cleburne at James T. Young Baseball Field.
The Yellow Jackets (10-9) committed four errors - all in the top of the first - allowing Cleburne to jump out to a 4-0 lead. It was 2-0 until back-to-back two-out errors set CHS up to bat all the way around.
Stephenville managed only two hits through six innings at the plate, and trailed 5-0 entering the bottom of the seventh.
That’s when Cleburne starting pitcher Brauch Farmer finally ran out of gas. After striking out seven batters through six frames, Farmer issued his fifth and sixth walks - he also hit one batter in the fourth - to start the seventh.
Cleburne made a pitching change, but the control got no better. Connor Washington walked, putting Ryan Harper at third and Ryker Thompson at second before a fielder’s choice grounder by J.C. Landers got the Jackets on the board.
Chase Varnado worked a walk to reload the bases, and pinch hitter James Hailey picked up an easy RBI when he walked to force Thompson home and make it 5-2.
Cleburne was forced to make another pitching change, going to staff ace Cooper Wells.
The first batter he faced was catcher Tyler Floyd with the bases loaded. The junior who entered the game hitting .529 lined his 16th double of the season to right field, scoring both Washington and Varnado to make it 5-4.
Dominick Jokel was hit by a pitch to load the bases for the fourth time in the inning, but Trent Morrison hit a one-hopper to second to end the game.
Morrison got the start on the hill for the Jackets, and allowed only one run - scored in the fourth to make it 5-0 - after the first. He allowed only two earned runs through five innings of work, but it was the three unearned runs - all in the first - that made the difference.
Morrison allowed seven hits and two walks while striking out three. Thompson replaced him for the final two innings, allowing no runs on three hits with one strikeout. He worked himself out of a two-on jam that included a balk in the seventh, keeping Cleburne off the board to give the Jackets a ray of hope entering their final at bat.
Farmer got the win on the mound for Cleburne, while Walls picked up the save.
Cleburne had 10 hits to Stephenville’s three and stranded six runners while the Jackets left five on base including three in the seventh.
Walls had the big bat for Cleburne, going 3-4 with a run scored.
Floyd made good contact in three of his four at bats for Stephenville. In addition to his double, he just missed driving in runs in the first - a runner was at second when he hit a line drive that was caught waist-high by a sprinting Walls in center field - and the third - a runner was at third when he lined one into the mitt of leaping Cleburne short stop Hector Juarez.
The Jackets’ only other hits were singles by Hailey and Harper.
Stephenville opens District 8-4A play Tuesday when the Jackets entertain San Angelo Lake View at 7 p.m.