Games 2 and 3, if needed, at noon Saturday at Azle
BROCK — The Graham Steers generated six runs during the fourth and fifth innings en route to a 7-3 victory over the Brownwood Lions in Game 1 of a Region I-4A baseball bi-district playoff series Friday afternoon.
Games 2 and 3 of the series, if needed, will take place at noon Saturday at Azle.
The District 5-4A second-seeded Lions (13-11), making their first playoff appearance since 2013, surrendered the first seven runs of the game and were limited to six hits by the pitching combination of Dillon Rodgers and Jacob Jones for District 6-4A tri-champion Graham (18-11).
Brownwood starting pitcher Rylan Reagan worked 4.2 innings and threw 105 of his 110 allotted pitches for the series, allowing six runs — five earned — on five hits with three strikeouts, six walks and a hit batter. Grant Fanara tossed 2.1 innings, yielding one run on three hits with two strikeouts on 31 pitches.
Reagan escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third inning, but wasn't able to duplicate that feat in the fourth or fifth.
The Steers struck for a pair of runs in the fourth as Chance Hornsey and Tucker Horn singled in succession to open the inning, then Adam Groves reached on a one-out walk. With two down, Kody Perry drew a bases-loaded walk that plated Hornsey with the first run. A wild pitch followed shortly thereafter, allowing Horn to trot home with the second run.
Graham stretched its advantage to 6-0 in the fifth as Ian Villa led off with a single, Evan Schraub walked and, with two outs, Kade Darrow was hit by a pitch to fill the sacks. Graves followed with an RBI walk, which increased the lead to 3-0 and chased Reagan from the game. Fanara was then greeted by pitch-hitter Danny Key, whose three-RBI single cleared the bases and pushed Graham's lead to 6-0.
The Steers tacked on their seventh run in the sixth inning as Jaxon Brockaway led off with a triple and scored on an RBI sacrifice fly by Schraub.
Brownwood finally scratched its first run across the plate in the bottom of the sixth, though the Lions appeared poise for a bigger outburst.
Cain Kittrell, Grayson Swanzy and Fanara all singled in order to begin the inning, then an RBI fielder's choice by Reagan plated Kittrell. On the same play, Graham attempted to turn a double play and runner's interference was called against Brownwood, which resulted in the second out and negated the Lions' second run, scored by Swanzy after an errant throw to first base.
After mustering just one run in the sixth, the Lions attempted another rally in the seventh. Gavon Clemons reached on a two-base error to start the frame, Hayden Donahoo drew a free pass and Harley Price walked with one out. Kittrell then delivered a two-RBI single to right field, which chased Rodgers from the mound. Jones came on and needed just four pitches to tally the final two outs, including one by strikeout, and give Graham a 1-0 lead in the series.
Of the Lions' six hits, two came from Kittrell while Swanzy, Fanara, Clemons and Price added one apiece.