Sweetwater is one of 32 baseball teams who are still alive in the Class 3A high school playoffs. But in order to make it to the Sweet 16, it will have to knock off an Andrews squad that is in the playoffs for the 19th consecutive year.
That equals the number of years that Roland Herrera has been a head baseball coach, the last five of them at Sweetwater. But this is the first time in his tenure with the Mustangs to make it to the postseason.
Sweetwater (19-14) may be a “Cinderella” team, he admits, but they deserve to be here.
“I think that we’ve proven ourselves, going back to the pre-district schedule,” Herrera said. “I think the kids know they can compete with just about anybody.”
That pre-district schedule included two games against Andrews (21-15), with each team winning once on its home field by one run after rallying from a big deficit.
By getting this far, Sweet-water has already equalled its longest playoff run since the high school baseball program was revived in 1988 after a 23-year absence.
And according to Herrera, the current team is similar to his Snyder squad from 1998 which not only fin-ished 32-8 but advanced to the regional semifinals.
“They want to be one of the 16 left after this weekend. Hopefully, everything will work out for them,” he said. “They’re an outstanding group to be around. They remind me of the ‘98 group, just the way they act and the way they compete, how positive they are.
“The only difference,” he added, “is that (‘98) team hit over 40 home runs, and this team has two.”
But the lack of power has yet to slow them down. The Mustangs are still hitting a respectable .316 as a team with six starters at .303 or better, while the pitching staff has an ERA of 3.59.
While the lack of having previous playoff experience may have shown up a little against Fabens in the bi-district round, Herrera said having that kind of pressure early on has paid off. “That really boosted their confidence,” he said. “But they’ve stayed level (mentally), and that’s what I like.
“I’ve been to the playoffs many times, so I know how a team’s supposed to think this time of year,” he continued. “We had a great workout (Wednesday) because there were no distractions, and that’s the way it should be.
“We’ve worked hard to earn respect from other schools, and we’ve pretty much turned the tables around. I’m just the conductor. These guys go out and execute everything, but they take coaching real well.”