The first playoff trip for Sweetwater High School’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 district’s top four teams.
The difference was better team chemistry and camaraderie, said coach Roland Herrera. “They’re better at handling pressure than any other team I’ve had. They’ve proved several times they can come from behind,” he said. “They enjoy the game a lot and they like to win, and they really believe in each other.”
Sweetwater’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 week’s winner will take on Pampa in the area round.
“The last two games we knew we were already in. We were trying for a district championship,” Herrera said. “It just didn’t work out that way. We had a couple of guys missing against Snyder and it threw us off a bit.
“I think our kids are like a close-knit family,” he con-tinued.
“I couldn’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, they’re not going to want to stop.”
Sweetwater was only 8-10 prior to district, when it faced several playoff-caliber teams. The tough schedule “helped us a lot,” Herrera said. “You go in there with a covey of quails playing a flock of geese, and it’s pret-ty tough.
“We’re going (to Crane) Friday and getting after it the first game. Then we’ll worry about the next day.
“It (the season) really has been fun,” the longtime coach concluded.
“Somebody asked me the other day what has been my most favorite playoff team. I told them that it’s the next one.”