Jackets' run ends in Austin, but not before they took fans on a wild ride
While the 2021 baseball season didn't end as they had hoped, the Stephenville High School Yellow Jackets made it a memorable one nonetheless.
After a historic, first-time run to the state semi-finals, the Jackets fell to the Pleasant Grove Hawks, 13-0, on Wednesday afternoon at UFCU Disch-Falk Field in Austin, ending their season.
The Jackets rode an 18-game winning streak into Austin, including sweeps in all five playoff series against Vernon, Decatur, Graham, El Paso Riverside and No. 10 Argyle.
Before Wednesday's game, Stephenville coach Justin Swenson spoke with the Abilene Reporter-News about his team.
"We’ve been the underdog team since going into Round 3 versus Graham," Swenson said. "We’ve been overlooked all year. Everyone claims we came from a weak district, so no one gives us credit for running through district with an 11-1 record. It seems like we’re playing with house money. We’ve been expected to lose for the last three or four weeks. We’ve come out playing relaxed baseball. … We’re going to continue feeling like we’re the underdog. We’re going to play loose with nothing to lose."
In the playoffs, Bryson Dill was the Game 1 starter in each of the five rounds. In those five games, he allowed 13 runs in 24 innings and went 4-0. Reece Elston was even better as the Game 2 starter allowing three earned runs in 33 innings, all complete-game victories with a pair of shutouts.
Whoever was on the mound, it wasn't all on his shoulders. The Jackets fielded a complete team that played defense behind them and scored plenty of runs. This postseason, Stephenville outscored its opponents 66-23 in 10 games.
The sixth-year Stephenville coach credited a big senior class — Case Dunavant, Grayson Traweek, Kyle Styron, Charlie Hughes, Lane West, Kason Seider, Dill, Trace Morrison, Kelvin Ong and Luke Barry — for putting in four years of work to get themselves and their team to the state tournament.
"The goal is to play until the last day the UIL allows you to practice, and we accomplished that goal (Tuesday). … For this group, they will always have a special place in this program," Swenson told the Reporter-News. "They came in my second year here. They bought in from Day 1. They all get along. We had to put them in some different positions coming into high school, they never blinked once, they accepted their role... It’s a coach’s dream to have a group like this."
In Wednesday's game Pleasant Grove's Blake Jennings pitched a 2-hitter to lead his team to the state baseball finals for the fifth time in 10 state tournament appearances.
Jennings faced just one batter over the minimum for five innings of work. He struck out three, walked two and his defense played flawless behind him, turning a double play and catcher Cason Head throwing out two runners attempting to steal second base.
JM Long launched a pair of triples and drove in four RBI for the Hawks (34-8), Brock Bearden was 2 for 2 with three RBI, and Tucker Anderson was 1 for 2 with a double.
Editor's Note: Jordan Hofeditz with the Abilene Reporter-News contributed to this report.
"It’s a coach’s dream to have a group like this." — Stephenville coach Justin Swenson