STEPHENVILLE, Texas — Most players in high school baseball programs rise with the sun wondering what assignment their first-period teacher is going to give.
The boys at Midlothian Heritage High School, however, almost literally eat, sleep and breathe the game of baseball.
That "all in" commitment may be one of the many reasons the Jaguars are 2-0 in District 8-4A after beating Stephenville High School 9-1 Friday at Yellow Jacket Field.
"That's the mentality we want them to have here," MHHS Head Coach Nick Junior said. "We want them to start mentally preparing for games in the morning. That's why they weightlift in the mornings before games. We did it during football season and had some success with it. We're not where we want to be yet, but we're hitting the ball a little better [than last year]. Our team batting average is up, we're putting the ball in play more and we've got fewer strikeouts.
"I think defensively, across the board, we are better than we were last season, too. A lot of it has to do with the way we've pitched, which has benefited from working with the bullpen more during the week."
The commitment helped the (12-3, 2-0) Jaguars rebound from early losses to regional rival Kennedale High School and baseball powerhouse Farmersville High School with wins against Canton, Fort Worth Castleberry, Gainsville and Lake Worth High School.
"Our non-district schedule helped, as did the boys being able to play and understand their role a second year," Junior continued. "To me, non-district is like Major League Spring Training. It doesn't matter whether you win or lose, what matters is preparing for the games that count. Nothing really changes — as far as your approach to a game – from non-district to district. The games just become more important. I think the biggest difference is the senior leadership we have this year. It's helped us come together faster. Last season, it was the third district game against Alvarado that we started to gel as a team. This season, I think we've been there from the start. We just had to get all the right players in the right spots."
It also led them to an 11-3 district-opening win against Life Waxahachie High School on March 14. Led by the mound performance of Lee Aston, who allowed a single run in two innings of work, Cade Sumbler led the team in hits and finished 3-for-4 from the plate and drove in a run while Trey Bostic notched two hits and four RBI.
Brayton McDaniel also had two hits and scored 3 runs in this game.
Against Stephenville on Friday, though, the Jaguars nearly blanked the Yellow Jackets' lineup, pounding their batters with a combination of brilliant pitching by sophomore Jared Boisvert and multiple hits by McDaniel, Sumbler, Rob McKelvey and Laramie Sayles.
"I don't think we played very well in the first district game, but the key to both of the wins was that we put the ball in play when we needed to put the ball in play," Junior said about his team's 11 total hits against Stephenville. "Jared made it easier for us because he was doing such a good job pitching and throwing strikes. There were four straight innings that we went 1-2-3 through their order. That kind of set the tempo for the game."
Boisvert allowed five hits and one run in seven innings of work and struck out six batters. He also threw 70 percent of his pitches for strikes.
Junior said his team's current trend of defense more than scoring — they've outscored their two district opponents 20-4 — will be key to remaining successful in one of the tougher districts in Texas. Midlothian Heritage was scheduled to play Glen Rose High School at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Jaguar Field.
The (7-1, 1-0) Tigers are on a three-game win streak after beating Venus High School 2-1 in 11 innings Friday night.
"We're going to have to put the ball in play, draw some walks and continue to do a good job bunting in critical situations," Junior said. "It puts pressure on the defense when you can buy the ball well. It also lets us use our team speed — which we have more of this year – to affect the game in our favor. If we can do those things, I think will always be in the game."