GRAFORD — Kaegun Williams unloaded a 2-run bomb to left field and Stephenville took advantage of wild Burkburnett pitching as the Yellow Jackets advanced past the bi-district round of the playoffs for the third straight year with a 8-2 win Saturday afternoon.
Williams smashed his home run well beyond the left field fence, only the second time this season a dinger has left Graford’s impressive new turf stadium. The big shot gave Stephenville a 5-0 lead in the top of the third, and the Jackets made it stand.
Maddux Conger, a First-Pitch All-American who has signed with Vanderbilt, returned to the mound after missing Stephenville’s final three regular season games. He was hit in the thumb while batting at Graham in a district contest, but appeared to be fully recovered on Saturday when he retired the first six Bulldogs he faced then recovered nicely after allowing two runs in the bottom of the third.
The Yellow Jackets also appear to have recovered from dropping five of their last six regular-season games, including two non-district make-up contests after locking up second place in 6-4A. They had seven hits and took advantage of 13 walks or hit batters from four different pitchers and advance to face Venus or Springtown in the area round next week.
Like Stephenville and Burkburnett, Venus and Springtown were forced to scrap their plans for a best-of-three series and play just one game due to weather. They started that game Saturday afternoon, but lightning caused a delay and they elected to finish Monday evening in Fort Worth.
Conger had 10 strikeouts including a stretch of four straight in the fourth and fifth innings. He allowed two runs while navigating around six hits and four walks in the complete-game effort.
Senior Ben Martin, who has signed with Navarro College, walked and came around to score in the top of the first. He reached second on a bunt by Alex Jimenez and third on a fly out by Brock Morrison before scoring on a wild pitch with Conger at the plate.
Burkburnett’s struggles from the pitching mound aided Stephenville in building its lead in the second. Josh Bulla had the first hit of the game, a single to center field, before four walks and a hit by pitch over the next five batters resulted in two more Stephenville runs. With the bases loaded, Jimenez was hit by a pitch to plate Kaegun Williams. Cole Harmon then scored on a walk issued to Brock Morrison.
Burkburnett did have two doubles, and they came back-to-back to the fence in left in the bottom of the third to produce its first run. A couple walks loaded the bases before an RBI single to left, also in the third, but that proved to be the last Bulldog run of the season.
Stephenville tacked on extra insurance runs in the fourth and sixth. Brock Morrison and Conger each singled then advanced on a double steal before Morrison scored on a wild pitch in the fourth.
Brock singled to left again in the sixth, took two bases on a throwing error and scored on a sacrifice fly to left field by his younger brother, Bradley Morrison. Courtesy runner Dominic Ward also scored in the sixth, taking first base after Conger drew a walk, reaching second on a single by Sam Weber and scoring on a fielding error off the bat of Josh Bulla.
The plans for the series were scrapped on Friday when the threat of tornados in the Wichita Falls area prevented Burkburnett from traveling. The single game was then delayed from noon until 3 p.m. Saturday due to rain storms in the Graford area.