ABILENE — Stephenville High School’s baseball season ended not long before midnight Saturday, with a 4-0 loss to eighth-ranked Iowa Park at Crutcher Scott Field on the campus of Abilene Christian University.
Coach Justin Swenson’s Yellow Jackets dropped the first game of the best-of-three Class 4A area baseball playoff series on Friday night, 8-1 to the Hawks, who are coached by his older brother, Michael Swenson.
The Jackets evened the series one game apiece Saturday night when they held off Iowa Park in Game 2.
But the Hawks put it away with a 4-0 victory over the Jackets in Game 3, later that night. That ended Stephenville’s baseball season, with a 16-15-2 season mark. The Jackets were the third-place team out of District 8-4A.
The state-ranked 26-3 Hawks will take on Abilene Wylie in the third (regional quarterfinal) round of the playoffs.
“Their pitchers kept us off balance. We hit some balls hard, but right at them,” Justin Swenson said. “They came up with key plays at the right time. Both teams battled their tails off.”
The Swenson brothers had previously coached against each other three times coming into the series, but this was the first time in the playoffs. Justin Swenson indicated that it was emotional for them and their families as well. And the brothers didn’t hesitate to use their best tools from their bag of tricks.
“There was so much gamesmanship going on while we were playing,” said Justin Swenson, who was an assistant baseball coach under his brother at Iowa Park before taking the Stephenville head coaching spot. “There was a lot of stepping out of the box. We know each other, what each other is trying to do. I told him that the team that played the best for the entire series won. He told me it (taking on his brother) was one of the hardest things he’s had to do.”
The Jackets have four active players who will be lost to graduation — Cade Averhoff, Zane Smith and Clay Krause — plus pitcher Easton Jones, sidelined all season with an elbow injury.
In addition to the injury to Jones, the Jackets had to play most of the season without catcher Cody Storrs, among other injury victims.
“I’ve never been on such a big rollercoaster ride in my life,” Justin Swenson said. “We overcame injuries and bad breaks to finish the way we did. It was very special.”
In Game 1, the Jackets were only out-hit 6-5, but hurt their own cause by committing six errors.
SHS gave up three runs in the first, one in the second and four in the fifth before the Jackets picked up their only run in the top of the seventh.
Krause had the only RBI in the game for the Jackets, and was 2-for-3 at the plate with a double. Derek Gifford, Averhoff and Cade Dunavent.
In Game 2, the Jackets jumped to a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Gifford hit a run-scoring double to left field, Trevor Easter drove in a run with a single, followed by run-producing singles by Mason Castleberry and Gage Graham.
The Hawks picked up two runs in the top of the second and one in the sixth. The Jackets turned an inning-ending double play to get out of trouble in the fifth.
Krause was 2-for-3 at the plate in that game. Dunavent, Gifford, Gabe Moore, Easter, Averhoff, Castleberry and Graham contributed one hit each in that contest.
Starting pitcher Caleb Smith picked up the victory for SHS, allowing three runs on five hits in 6 1-3 innings. He struck out three and walked two. Castleberry, Nolan Carroll and Cade Dunavent pitched in scorless relief.
The Jackets were out-hit 9-3 in the final game. Castleberry pitched the first 2 1/2 innings, giving up three runs on three hits and striking out one. Kendall Storrs, Daniel Luna and Dunavent posted hits.
Iowa Park's regional quarterfinal series versus second-ranked Wylie (22-4-1) will be Friday and Saturday. Game 1 will be at 7 p.m. Friday in Iowa Park, and Game 2 will be a 1 p.m. Saturday in Abilene.