Riding a two-game win streak over a pair of former district rivals into the weekend, the Brownwood Lions are looking to continue their solid play with five games in the Bluebonnet Invitational today through Saturday.
Following two trips to the Region I-3A championship round in the span of the last four seasons, the Lions (6-4) have traditionally used the Bluebonnet Invitational as a catapult in their drive toward a postseason berth.
First-year Lions head coach Blake Sandford has invited another stellar field of teams — Stephenville, Snyder, Lampasas, San Angelo Central JV and Ranger College JV — to compete, as the Lions, who missed the playoffs last season, will attempt to find their stride with District 8-3A action slated for begin March 19.
“Everybody in the tournament is going to have good players and they’re all going to be well-coached,” Sandford said. “It should be a good, fun, competitive tournament.”
The Lions will play a doubleheader today as they face Ranger at 3:45 p.m. and San Angelo Central at 6 p.m. All games, five per day, will have a one-hour, 45-minute time limit in the round-robin format. On Friday, the Lions will tangle with Snyder at 6 p.m. in a rematch of Brownwood’s shutout victory last weekend. Saturday, the Lions close the tournament against Stephenville at 1:30 p.m. and District 8-3A rival Lampasas at 3:45 p.m.
“Stephenville and Snyder are Region I teams, and Lampasas is in our district, so it’s going to be nice to a get a look at those guys,” Sandford said. “That’s going to be beneficial to us in the long run if we’re fortunate enough to get past district. Lampasas is in our district, so we’re going to have to get after them.
“I hear the San Angelo Central JV team has been together for two years, so they should be pretty solid, and then you have Ranger College.”
The Lions head into the weekend bating .273 as team a team with 52 runs scored, an average of 5.2 per outing. Justin Osteen leads the Lions with a .441 batting average and 9 RBIs followed by Evan Cain with a .357 average, Cojo Guidry with a .333 and 5 RBIs, Bryant McDaniel with a .333, Scott Kinzler with a .333 and six RBIs and Seth Owen with a .300 batting average.
“I want to see us continue to be tough at-bats and continue working the count, making the other pitcher throw a lot of pitches and not striking out,” Sandford said. “We’re stressing quality at-bats in our hitting drills. Through our first 10 games and four scrimmages, we’ve done a good job of being a tough out and still putting the ball in play, and I want to continue that.”
On the mound, the Lions carry a 3.39 ERA into the weekend with 99 strikeouts and 35 walks in 64 innings of action. Kinzler is 2-1 with a 1.11 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 19 innings; Owen owns a 2-1 record with a 1.47 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 14.1 innings; Jared Crouch sports a 1-1 record and a 3.00 ERA; Colt Evetts is 1-0 with a 3.15 ERA and one save; and Emilio Salazar carries a 3.50 ERA into the tournament.
“Our pitching has been fantastic,” Sandford said. “I don’t know our strikeout total, but we’re doing a great job keeping hitters off balance. We’ve had a couple of slip ups, but overall we’ve had good control of the strike zone and an extraordinary amount of strikeouts. I’m really happy to have the number of good arms that we do.”
While Sanford would like to see the Lions run the table this weekend, the biggest key is to play hard throughout all five contests.
“We may not be able to control the other teams, but we can control how we hustle and how we compete,” Sandford said. “We’ve shown the ability to bounce back from adversity. Now we’re working on being focused from the time we step between the lines and getting off to good starts early, as well as playing solid defense.”
2013 BLUEBONNET INVITATIONAL SCHEDULE
Thursday at Morris Southall Field
Lampasas vs. Stephenville, 9 a.m.
Stephenville vs. Snyder, 11:15 a.m.
Snyder vs. Ranger, 1:30 p.m.
Brownwood vs. Ranger College JV, 3:45 p.m.
Brownwood vs. San Angelo Central JV, 6 p.m.
Friday at Morris Southall Field
Stephenville vs. Ranger College JV, 9 a.m.
Ranger College JV vs. San Angelo Central, JV, 11:15 a.m.
San Angelo Central JV vs. Lampasas, 1:30 p.m.
Lampasas vs. Snyder, 3:45 p.m.
Brownwood vs. Snyder, 6 p.m.
Saturday at Morris Southall Field
Snyder vs. San Angelo Central JV, 9 a.m.
San Angelo Central JV vs. Stephenville, 11:15 a.m.
Brownwood vs. Stephenville, 1:30 p.m.
Brownwood vs. Lampasas, 3:45 p.m.
Lampasas vs. San Angelo Central JV, 6 p.m.