AUSTIN — Not all dream seasons end on a high note. In the case of the Stephenville Yellow Jackets, what is arguably the best season its baseball program’s history ended with a 13-0 loss to Texarkana Pleasant Grove in a Class 4A state semifinal Wednesday at Disch Falk Field.
Blake Jennings tossed a two-hit shutout and JM Long was 2 for 3 with two triples and four RBIs to lead Pleasant Grove (34-8), which will take on either Sinton or Rusk in the 4A state title game at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Disch Falk Field.
For Stephenville, a 28-9-1 campaign ended with a frustrating day that saw multiple hard-hit balls directly at opposing fielders, while the Hawks were able to pile up 13 runs on seven hits, eight walks, three hit batsmen and two SHS errors.
“We came out with our bats on fire and hit three hard shots right at them,” Stephenville coach Justin Swenson said. “We thought we had the momentum coming out of the (top of the) first inning because of the way we hit the ball.
“We came out in the second inning and did the same thing. When we got runners on, they did a great job and threw us out twice, trying to make things happen down 4-0. That’s when the momentum really shifted. And on the opposite side, they were missing our gloves by about an inch — something that really hasn’t happened to us over the last six weeks.
“But we have to tip our hats to those guys. They hit the ball hard and hit it away from us.”
Virtually nothing the Yellow Jackets had grown accustomed to during a remarkable 10-0 postseason run that saw them eliminate five straight teams materialized in the Pleasant Grove loss.
Even starting pitcher Reece Elston, who had a 5-0 playoff record and a sub-1.00 ERA during the postseason, was far from his usual self, allowing nine runs (all earned) on five hits and five uncharacteristic walks in 2.1 innings of work. Coming into Wednesday, the southpaw had yielded only 18 free passes through 64 innings on the season.
Trailing 4-0 in the third, the Yellow Jackets’ troubles were compounded when the Hawks erupted for five runs on two hits, three walks and two hit batsmen. This included an RBI single from Brock Bearden, an RBI walk with the bases loaded by Long, and a pair of sacrifice flies by Hayden Koller and Alex Murphy.
An inning later, the Hawks set up the 10-run rule with a four-run fourth on three hits against three Stephenville relievers — Kelvin Ong, Kason Seider and Bryson Dill (4). This included a two-RBI triple from Long and RBI singles from Murphy and Koller.
Jennings then finished off his win by retiring Stephenville in order to close the fifth and put the run rule into effect.
“There’s a lot of excuses we (could use) — it was humid with a newer baseball and teams had to adjust to it. It just took us a bit longer to get adjusted and we had a couple of throwing errors in the field that we (normally) don’t make because we didn’t have a good grip on the ball or whatever it was. … But we haven’t been used to playing from behind lately and that was a different feel.
“I told the kids that I can’t put it into words what this group means to me. … It’s been a special year regardless. It could have been 55-0 today and that feeling is not going to change. I’m so proud and so happy to be a part of this group, and be the leader of these young men because that’s what they are — awesome young men.”
class 4a state semifinalS
TEXARKANA PLEASANT GROVE 13, STEPHENVILLE 0
Reece Elston, Kelvin Ong (3), Kason Seider (4), Bryson Dill (4) and Cutter Gray. Blake Jennings and Cason Head. W — Jennings. L — Elston. 2B — Pleasant Grove: Tucker Anderson. Stephenville: Trace Morrison. 3B — Pleasant Grove: JM Long 2.
Records — Stephenville 28-9-1; Texarkana Pleasant Grove 34-8.