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The first playoff trip for Sweetwater High Schoolâ€™s baseball squad since 2004 is lengthy as the team goes to Crane High School to play Fabens in a best-of-3 bi-district series. Game 1 starts at 5 p.m. today, with Game 2 at 2 p.m. Saturday. Game 3, if necessary, gets started 30 minutes after the end of the second game.
It was a long road just to get here. After narrowly missing the playoffs a year ago, Sweetwater (15-13) was the district co-champion this season in 4-3A, where a single game separated the districtâ€™s top four teams.
The difference was better team chemistry and camaraderie, said coach Roland Herrera. â€śTheyâ€™re better at handling pressure than any other team Iâ€™ve had. Theyâ€™ve proved several times they can come from behind,â€ť he said. â€śThey enjoy the game a lot and they like to win, and they really believe in each other.â€ť
Sweetwaterâ€™s had plenty of time to think about this, clinching a playoff spot with a 10-5 victory at Monahans on April 16. After that, the Mustangs lost consecutive games to Wylie and Snyder, costing them a chance for a first-round bye. Wylie got the bye instead, with Sweet-water the No. 2 seed.
Now they face Fabens, located 30 miles southeast of El Paso, as they try to get back to their winning ways. Fabens was the third-place team in District 3-3A. This weekâ€™s winner will take on Pampa in the area round.
â€śThe last two games we knew we were already in. We were trying for a district championship,â€ť Herrera said. â€śIt just didnâ€™t work out that way. We had a couple of guys missing against Snyder and it threw us off a bit.
â€śI think our kids are like a close-knit family,â€ť he con-tinued.
â€śI couldnâ€™t be blessed by a better bunch of kids than the ones I have. I want them to taste what the playoffs are and take this first game. Once they do that, theyâ€™re not going to want to stop.â€ť
Sweetwater was only 8-10 prior to district, when it faced several playoff-caliber teams. The tough schedule â€śhelped us a lot,â€ť Herrera said. â€śYou go in there with a covey of quails playing a flock of geese, and itâ€™s pret-ty tough.
â€śWeâ€™re going (to Crane) Friday and getting after it the first game. Then weâ€™ll worry about the next day.
â€śIt (the season) really has been fun,â€ť the longtime coach concluded.
â€śSomebody asked me the other day what has been my most favorite playoff team. I told them that itâ€™s the next one.â€ť