Jayden Stevens

Jayden Stevens and the Godley Wildcats went 3-1 in Everman’s Gary T. Balch Tournament last weekend. Now Stevens and the Wildcats will host the inaugural Zane Gregg Memorial Tournament beginning Thursday.

GODLEY — After a 3-1 showing to open the 2020 season at the Everman Tournament last weekend, the Godley Wildcats are set to host the inaugural Zane Gregg Memorial Tournament this weekend.

Seven teams will visit Godley beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday for the three-day tournament, which pays homage to the late Zane Gregg, a Godley High School senior and Wildcat baseball player who died in a vehicle accident this past August.

Godley Coach Brent Lewis said he wanted the Wildcats to play as many home games as possible, including hosting a tournament, this season to help showcase the new high school facilities. And naming the tournament in honor of Gregg was a no-brainer.

“We thought it would be fitting to honor Zane in as many different ways as we could and make sure him and his family are still a part of our program,” Lewis said. “So we decided to name this tournament in honor of him. We’re going to do all we can to honor Zane this weekend and this season. His parents are going to throw the first pitch at 7:30 [p.m.] Thursday. Hopefully we’ll have a good weekend of baseball while honoring Zane and his family.”

Lewis said Gregg’s presence is still felt on a daily basis at Godley High School and especially on the baseball field.

“I felt like one of the best ways we could honor Zane is name this tournament after him for him and his family,” said Lewis, in his first season as Godley’s head baseball coach after two years as an assistant. “Double Rock Homes stepped up to sponsor the tournament. Beyond naming the tournament after him, all the kids have ‘ZG’ written on their shoes and we have ‘ZG’ on our hats. Every little thing we can do this year, we’re going to incorporate him and his family with everything we do.”

Lewis said it didn’t take long to get this tournament set up.

“Honestly, we got a lot of hits early,” Lewis said. “This tournament has been set since June or July. We got it filled relatively quickly and we had to turn some people down because we can only hold so many games in one day at one field.”

Teams set to converge on Godley and compete in the inaugural Zane Gregg Memorial Tournament (in addition to the Wildcats) are Benbrook, Breckenridge, Crandall, Keller-Saginaw, Palmer, Saginaw, and Venus. With 18 games scheduled across three days, Lewis said he hopes to expand the tournament moving forward.

“I would love to incorporate other fields and other teams and have Zane’s name get out there even more,” Lewis said. “We’re going to continue to do this [tournament] every year as long as I’m here. Maybe in the future we can get more teams in and more fields involved and make it a bigger thing. We’re excited to have the teams we have this year and hopefully the weather will be good for us. We got a brand new tarp this year and the tarp will be on the field all week long, so we’ll pull the tarp Thursday morning and play.”

In last weekend’s season-opening outings for the Wildcats at the Gary T. Balch Tournament in Everman, Godley had a solid 3-1 showing with wins of 2-0 over Fort Worth Northside, 5-4 over Chisholm Trail, and 5-4 over Joshua, along with an 8-6 loss to Mansfield Summit.

“I was very pleased with what we did,” Lewis said. “We threw strikes and we played good defense, other than one inning in on game against Summit. We got timely hitting. We did the little things right. I was very pleased with what we did [last] weekend.”

Not only is the 2020 campaign a new era of Godley baseball under the direction of Lewis, but gone are the last few contributors from the program’s most successful five-year run as Chase Lummus (Texas), Nick Mencaca (Navarro) and Easton James graduated.

But Godley brought back 10 returning lettermen, including starters in junior pitcher/infielder Braden Karnes, senior catcher/shortstop Victor Molina, senior outfielder/pitcher Blake Rodgers, junior outfielder/pitcher Jayden Stevens, and sophomore utility/pitcher Landry McKittrick.

And while those returners filled their leading roles last weekend, as expected, Lewis said he was encouraged to see newcomers, including a pair of freshman contributors, step up.

“Everybody knows Braden Karnes and Victor Molina and those guys, but we had two freshmen step up from the first game of the year,” Lewis said. “Owen Roever threw five shutout innings and Kole Allen closed the game against North Side. And it was kind of the same thing on Saturday; Hunter Lewis pitched a good game for us against really good Joshua team and Kole Allen came in and closed the door on them. So we had two freshmen step up [last] weekend and that was a pleasant surprise. Landry McKittrick coming straight out of basketball stepped in and played well. All of our kids played pretty well together [last] weekend.”

After a run as one of the state’s most successful programs — 98 wins, three district championships, three regional final appearances and a state tournament appearance from 2015-18 — Godley took a bit of a step back in 2019 as the Wildcats finished 14-12-1. But Godley was still able to win its fourth consecutive bi-district title before falling to Iowa Park in the area round.

In order to get back to the elite level of play Godley baseball has become accustomed to, Lewis said attention to detail will be key.

“We believe we will do the little things right during a game, have great hustle, and have an attention to detail in everything we do and challenge other teams in all aspects of the game,” Lewis said. “We have goals such as district championship and a long run in the playoffs, but before we can worry about that we have to do what the game asks of us and play the game the right way.”

Lewis said he’s been pleased with the “buy-in” of the Wildcats throughout the offseason as well as their commitment to team ball.

“We believe we have athletes who have something invested into the program and our success will be a byproduct of our preparation since August,” Lewis said.

The Zane Gregg Memorial Tournament will begin at 9 a.m. Thursday with Venus and Keller-Saginaw getting things started. Godley’s first game is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. Thursday vs. Keller-Saginaw, then the Wildcats play Crandall at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. On Friday, Godley plays Saginaw at 1:10 p.m. and Breckenridge at 7:30 p.m. And on Saturday, the Wildcats face Palmer at 5:25 p.m. and Crandall at 7:30 p.m.

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