Brownwood tallies fourth straight victory, improves to 7-6

The Brownwood Lions extended their win streak to four games, thanks to an eight-run first inning as they cruised past the Bangs Dragons, 12-2, in Tuesday afternoon's home opener at Morris Southall Field.

Following wins over host Lampasas, Jarrell and Florence in tournament action this past weekend, the Lions (7-6) notched their third double-digit victory of the season.

“We're finally trusting the process of hitting I've been trying to teach them,” said Lions first-year head coach Blandon Hancock, whose team is over .500 for the first time since a season-opening 5-4 triumph over Azle at the Weatherford tournament. “We've hit the ball well all year, but we're really starting to hit it right now. There's still some things we need to work on, but we can score runs.”

Bangs (2-9), meanwhile, suffered its third consecutive loss in its final outing prior to the start of District 6-3A action.

“Defensively we have to improve quite a bit, we've made quite a few errors,” said Bangs head coach Keith Meador, looking ahead to district competition. “We have to get better on the mound, throw strikes and get ahead of batters. We have to get away from the walks and hit batters.

“At the plate, we have to find a way to manufacture runs. At times at the plate we look good, but today we come out and strike out 12 times. We have to put the ball in play.”

Brownwood's Grant Fanara carried a one-hitter into the fifth and final inning, where Bangs tallied two runs on three hits. Fanara fanned the side in order in the second and fourth innings and also recorded all three outs on Ks in the fifth innings.

“Grant's gotten to pitch a little bit in the tournaments, but he's mainly our catcher,” Hancock said. “We had some tournament games cancelled over the weekend due to rain but we stayed with the same rotation and just ran him out there today. He gave us some good, quality innings, threw strikes and didn't get behind batters.”

A two-out single by Zach Zink and a walk from Jeffery Fincher put two runners on for Bangs in the top of the first inning, both of whom were stranded by Fanara. The Brownwood offense then came to the plate and took control of the contest, sending up 12 batters and posting eight runs.

“I wanted them to come out and make some adjustments I told them before the game and they did that,” Hancock said of the Lions offense. “In the latter innings we were kind of going through the motions. We have to play the whole time no matter what, so I was a little disappointed in that, but glad we came out with the win.”

All Brownwood's damage in the first inning came against Bangs starting pitcher Eli Carbajal.

Cain Kittrell and Blaine Hughes drew back-to-back walks to start the Lions' onslaught, followed by a two-RBI double down the left field line by Fanara, which staked Brownwood to a 2-0 lead. Reagan later walked and stole second base, which allowed Fanara to race home from third on the back end. Gavin Clemons then ripped an RBI double to left field to score Reagan for a 4-0 edge.

Hunter Leonard then stepped to the plate and launched his fourth home run of the season over the center field wall, scoring himself and Clemons for a 6-0 cushion.

“That was our 10th home run as a team and I believe we lead the state in Class 4A, and maybe everyone,” Hancock said.

Harley Price followed with a double and Grayson Swanzy reached on a single in front of an RBI sacrifice fly from Kittrell. Hughes then singled home Swanzy to cap the first-inning scoring.

“The first inning got off to a rocky first start giving up eight runs,” Meador said. “It's hard to beat anyone, especially a good team like Brownwood, when you do that. We just made too many mistakes. After the first inning, we did a decent job defensively, but at the plate we still struggled.”

Brownwood padded its cushion to 10-0 in the second inning as Reagan led off with a walk and scored on Clemons' RBI double off the top of the left field wall. Clemons later scored on an RBI bloop single by Price.

The Lions tacked on their final two runs in the bottom of the fourth as Caleb Hernandez and Clemons led off the frame with consecutive singles. Leonard then hit a floater into the outfield and reached safely, allowing Hernandez to cross the plate on the play. Justin Buchanan followed with an RBI sacrifice fly that drove in Clemons with the final run.

Brownwood's 11-hit attack featured three from Clemons, two each from Leonard and Price, and one apiece by Hughes, Fanara, Hernandez and Swanzy.

Bangs' only scoring burst occurred with two outs in the top of the fifth inning.

Austin Hall singled to start the frame, then Tanner James prolonged the contest with a two-out single. Carbajal then reached on a hit to right field that loaded the bases. Kadon Richards followed with an RBI single to left and Zink picked up an RBI on a bases-loaded walk before Fanara ended the contest with his 12th strikeout.

The Lions will host Bridgeport in a 1 p.m. Thursday doubleheader in their final action prior to the start of District 5-4A competition March 24 against Big Spring.

“Bridgeport is going to be good competition,” Hancock said. “I want to see our kids be competitive, have good at-bats, play good defense, keep up their intensity and create our own momentum.”

The Dragons' next game is Tuesday, their 6-3A opener at Early.