CAPTION: The 2023 Johnson City Eagles are the District 28-2A baseball champions. Courtesy photo
The Johnson City High School baseball team finished the District 28-2A campaign with wins against Center Point 17-4 April 24 and 14-0 April 21 for the perfect 12-0 record.
“It was always a big goal of ours, especially to repeat after last year, after losing so many key players,” head coach Steven Shipley said. “We lost one game last year, to Mason. We’re 21-1 over the last two district seasons. “
Shipley is proud of his athletes for accomplishing one of the hardest tasks in sports — winning a championship as a favorite. And he noted it wasn’t easy because of the amount of talent that graduated in 2022.
“We were going to need all the returning guys to perform better than last year,” he said. “Mainly at the plate.”
The Eagles (16-6) scored 46 runs in 22 games. They started the season with losses: 16-5 to Ingram Tom Moore, which finished fourth in the District 5-3A race, 12-1 to Llano, which was second in District 5-3A, and 20-6 to Blanco, which is the District 5-3A champion.
Their first win of the season was against the Bowie junior varsity 10-0 Feb. 24. That launched a three-game winning streak to end the month. They lost to Jarrell, a District 24-4A playoff team, 7-1 March 2, and then rebounded with a 1-0 win against Lampasas, a District 24-4A member, an 11-3 loss to Burnet, which was the District 24-4A leader, and a 10-0 loss to the Texas Military Institute before the start of district play.
That first district win was a thumping of Sonora 16-0 March 7. And though Johnson City lost to Llano 11-5 and to Navarro 8-3 March 9, the Eagles soared to the district crown, surviving challenges from Mason, which finished third in the district race, in back-to-back 5-3 wins April 11-12.
Johnson City averaged almost six runs per contest in district play.
The coach credits Ryan Shipley, his son, and sophomore Johnny Slawinski for helping the offense become a juggernaut.
“They changed the game for us early in the season,” he said. “We were scoring a lot of runs. Johnny and Ryan combined for four home runs and seven or eight doubles. They produced a lot of offense.”
During the 7-4 win April 24 against Center Point, Shipley had 7 RBIs, while Slawinski had 3 and McCray Jacobs finished with 2. Slawinski led the way during the 23-15 stomping of Junction April 14 thanks to 7 RBIs off 5 hits including a grand slam.
Meanwhile pitchers Slawinski, a sophomore committed to Baylor University, and Jacobs, a junior, are rock steady on the mound. District opponents averaged less than 2.4 runs per outing and in one contest, neither pitched.
Shipley was to the point when he described the pitching staff.
“All I do is sit in the dugout, clap and drive the bus,” he said. “A lot of it is in there. There’s not a whole lot I do.”
The Eagles now wait to see who they play from District 27-2A. Shipley noted that Granger beat Holland, which was second in the district, 11-10 on a lead-off walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh inning April 25. That win tied Granger, Rosebud-Lott and Thrall for third. The District 27-2A chair was reviewing the tiebreaker rules to determine which teams would advance.
While Johnson City waits, Shipley said the Eagles are focusing on what helped them be successful this season and praised the players for competing at a high level.
“From the get-go, I told the guys we’re good enough to repeat and go further,” he said. “Not much was a surprise.”
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