The defending Region I-4A softball champion Brownwood Lady Lions have erased 1-0 series deficits the first two rounds of the playoffs in their quest to return to Austin. With the Vernon Lady Lions awaiting in the regional quarterfinal round Thursday, Friday and possibly Saturday, Brownwood is ready for whatever adversity may come its way.
District 5-4A co-champion Brownwood (28-6) and District 6-4A runner-up Vernon will square off at 6 p.m. Thursday, 6 p.m. Friday and, if needed, at noon Saturday in Graford to determine which squad advances to the regional semifinals. Following series victories over Stephenville and Burkburnett, the Lady Lions are as battle-tested as they come.
“One of their goals at the beginning of the season was to make it back down to the state tournament and each week as the playoffs go on, it’s a fight for them,” said Lady Lions head coach Jessica Lynn. “It’s an attainable goal, but after losing that first game they have to fight even more to reach that goal.
“They showed great resiliency and fought unbelievably hard last week because any of those games could have gone the other way. Stephenville scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth of the first game and we only had one more chance to bat, so we really could have fallen apart after that. But they’ve gotten down before and had to come back. They have a lot of fight in them and that’s what you like to see.”
Against Stephenville, pitcher Chyanne Ellett yielded three runs — two earned — on seven hits with 42 strikeouts and seven base on balls over 21 innings. The Honeybees produced a total of 33 runs in two games in a bi-district sweep over Springtown.
“Good pitching and good defense seems to always shut down good hitting. You see that in baseball and softball,” Lynn said. “Chyanne was really on the last three games and the defense played really well. When you have that combination, you’re usually going to have a winning outcome. But Chyanne had to battle because Stephenville has a strong offense.”
Offensively, the Lady Lions scored just four runs in three games, but that was enough to get by. Minus a nine-run outburst in the finale of the Burkburnett series, Brownwood has tallied six runs in its last six outings.
“The main thing is when we get runners in scoring position we have to get them in,” Lynn said. “I don’t know how many times we had runners in scoring position last week and we didn’t move them over a base. There were a couple of times we had a runner at third with no outs and didn’t get them in. We have to get runs home when runners are in scoring position.”
Vernon is coming off a 5-0, 6-2 area sweep of Mineral Wells after ousting Brownwood’s District 5-4A rival Big Spring, 9-2, in a bi-district playoff.
In the series finale against Mineral Wells, Jade Guzman tallied the win while Lauren Hager was 2 for 3 with a run and two RBIs and Shykerra Fanner went 3 for 4 with a run. In the series opener, Guzman tossed a three-hit shutout and struck out 10. Avery Kinney notched two RBIs and finished with a pair of hits, as did Fanner, Guzman, Hager and Caroline Taylor.
Thursday will mark the second meeting of the season between the Lady Lion squads, with Brownwood collecting a 5-4 victory at the Graham tournament on March 10.
Kayla McFarden doubled, singled and drove in two runs while Ellett chipped in a pair of singles and scored twice. Ayanna Clemons, Victoria Sanchez and Emily Perez each contributed one hit and an RBI. Ashlynn Patteson also doubled.
Perez pitched four innings, allowing four runs — two earned — on six hits with a walk. Ellett worked the fifth and final inning, needing 10 pitches to retire the side while recording a pair of strikeouts.
“We played them earlier in the year, the beginning of March, and beat them by a run,” Lynn said. “We couldn’t tell a whole lot from that game, but I know they’re going to be a scrappy team and it’s going to be a battle.”
The series winner will go on to face either Fort Stockton or Fabens next weekend.