CAPTION: The Johnson City Eagles continue to dominate the District 28-2A competition. The latest win was against San Saba. Courtesy photo
The Johnson City High School baseball team beat San Saba 12-3 March 21 for the season sweep of the District 28-2A foe.
The win keeps the Eagles (8-6, 3-0) atop of the district standings.
The Eagles seized control immediately, plating three runs in the first inning, adding five more in the second, and another in the sixth for a 9-0 advantage before the Armadillos responded.
San Saba scored a run in the sixth inning, but Johnson City added three more in the seventh. The Armadillos scored two runs in their final at-bat.
The Eagles had 12 hits to go with their 12 runs, and San Saba committed seven errors.
Catcher Ryan Shipley, the coach’s son, led Johnson City with 3 RBIs off two hits followed by Eden Pennel and McCray Jacobs with two RBIs apiece.
“We put the ball in play as a team, and we don’t strike out often,” head coach Stephen Shipley said. “We play all 14 players, and we’ve only struck out five times. We’re all athletic.”
Sophomore pitcher Johnny Slawinski, who committed to Baylor University, struck out 10 in four innings of work, while Grant Gale had three strikeouts in three innings.
“I don’t think Johnny gave up a hit,” head coach Steven Shipley said. “We knew last year as a freshman he was going to be good. He didn’t have to pitch a lot last year because we had a senior-led team. He grew a lot in the summer and fall and got stronger. He is throwing 5 or 6 mph harder. He’s in the upper 80s consistently and has offspeed pitches and throws strikes.”
Ryan Shipley, who’s in his third year as the starting catcher, calls the pitches.
“He knows how we want to pitch to kids,” the elder Shipley said. “Anytime I see something from the break, I’ll call a pitch in every now and then. If I see something different, I can tell him ‘pitch this guy like this.'”
The Eagles return six starters from last year’s regional quarterfinal team led by junior McCray Jacobs, who is the other starting pitcher.
Currently, Jacobs has 49 strikeouts, while Slawinski has 51.
“They’re averaging 2.5 batters an inning who are striking out,” the coach said. “McCray has done 13 strikeouts in a game against (San Antonio) Randolph. It’s great that we have those two guys.”
While the two have the arm strength and ability to command the strike zone, what separates them from other pitchers is their mentality.
“They’re very competitive, but they’re very different as far as personality on the field,” Shipley said. “McCray was our quarterback. He’s a more vocal guy. He’s really smart and has the ability to mess with people and gets in their heads. He tries to get in the other guy’s head and mess with him.
“Johnny is more of the guy who’s going to pitch and wants to do well and doesn’t want anybody to get a hit,” he added. “He takes everything in stride. I tell our kids, ‘You have to be careful with your emotions in baseball. You have a few things go wrong, you can’t get upset and you can’t get (too) excited when things go well.’ That rollercoaster in a game can be detrimental.”
While the Eagles have plenty of the traits for success on the diamond, the coach said the players’ rapport with one another also is a big reason.
“The big thing is our kids are all friends,” he said. “I think they have fun playing the game with each other. One of my philosophies is if we think you’re not trying hard, you wouldn’t be playing. Physical mistakes are going to happen. Try not to get upset. And we don’t question whether each of us is playing hard.”
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