ROUND ROCK — Palestine native Jason Farrow said he learned plenty from former Westwood High School athletic director Kevin Hayes.
“Kevin is a great high school coach, and he's mentor to me,” said Farrow, a 1991 graduate of Westwood High, and now head baseball coach at Forney. “He was a tremendous help to me as a player. He was fun to play for; but, he was also discipline-oriented.
“We made the playoffs all four years in my high school career,” Farrow added.
An aggressive offense coupled with two stellar pitchers helped the Jackrabbits reach the University Interscholastic League state tournament.
Forney (28-13-1) will play Corpus Christi Veterans Memorial at 7 p.m. on June 7 in one Conference 5A state semifinal game at Dell Diamond. The other 5A semifinal is set between Northwest Eaton and Humble Kingwood Park at 4 p.m., also on June 7.
It's been a dramatic run through the playoffs for Forney, and the Jackrabbits topped Joshua in three games in the 5A-Region II semifinals and then bested Prosper in three games in the 5A-II final.
Against Joshua, Forney lost the the middle game of the best-of-3 series before advancing to the regional final with a 7-0 victory.
Prosper defeated Forney in the opener, 8-1, but then the Jackrabbits rallied and won the next two games by scores of 9-2 and 3-1.
“Well, this has been an awesome year for us,” said Farrow, who also serves as the department chair for special education and as head freshman football coach at Forney. “It's been a great experience. We got hot at the right time. We have a hard-working group that plays the right way.”
Mason Englert (13-2) and Jonathan Childress (10-2) have formed a two-headed monster pitching rotation for Forney. Both seniors have committed to play for Texas A&M University.
Shortstop Tyler Dickey has been the table setter as the leadoff hitter, with a .282 average. Junior catcher/designated hitter Nate Fitzgerald is another player to watch, batting .333 out of the No. 5 hole in the lineup.
“I think we are battle tested,” Farrow said of the team's preparation. Forney played in tough District 15-5A with the likes of Lucas Lovejoy, Wylie East, West Mesquite, Mesquite Poteet, Royse City and Dallas Highland Park.
What's made this trip to state special is the Forney has the opportunity to pull off winning championships in back-to-back weeks.
Forney defeated Richmond Foster, 4-1, on Saturday to claim the 5A state softball title.
“There's been a great buzz and excitement at the school, and in the community,” Farrow said.
Farrow has been the head baseball coach at Forney for nine years, with time spent beforehand as a coach at both Cy-Fair and Humble. He was Palestine's head coach in the late-1990s and early-2000s, advancing to the area round of the playoffs once.
After starring at Westwood, helping the Panthers reach the area round once, Farrow played at both Stephen F. Austin and the University of Houston.
“Jason was a player at Westwood when I was at Elkhart the first time,” said Elkhart head coach John Adair. “He has such passion for the game, and it carried over to him as a coach. I'm happy for him, because he's put in the hours.”
The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Farrow in 1995, and he played a couple of years in that organization — reaching mid-level Single-A. He also played in the minors for the Kansas City Royals before joining up with the Tyler Wildcatters in independent baseball.
While at Palestine, Farrow was instrumental in helping start the Howard Estes Memorial Baseball Tournament, named in honor of his late father-in-law. The tournament is still a fixture on the Wildcats' schedule these days.