GRAFORD — Perhaps the defending Region I-4A softball champion Brownwood Lady Lions have the Vernon Lady Lions exactly where they want them.
For the third consecutive postseason series Brownwood dropped the opening game, falling by a 1-0 count to Vernon in Region I-4A quarterfinals action Thursday night. Game 2 will be held at 6 p.m. Friday in Graford with Game 3, if needed, in Graford at noon Saturday.
The Lady Lions were no-hit by Burkburnett in their postseason opener, a 4-1 loss, but rebounded with victories of 1-0 and 9-2 to advance to the area round. There, Brownwood was edged by Stephenville, 2-1, in the series opener but answered with victories of 2-1 and 1-0 in eight innings to extend the season.
“That’s what I hope to see and am expecting to see it,” said Brownwood head coach Jessica Lynn when asked if the Lady Lions can dig themselves out of a hole for the third consecutive weekend. “They’re used to it after the first two rounds. They’re a fighting team, they don’t want to go home, and I expect a good hard fight tomorrow.”
In Thursday’s contest against Vernon (19-6) — a team the Lady Lions (28-7) defeated, 5-4, on March 10 in the Graham tournament — Brownwood’s recent offensive struggles continued. Not counting the nine-run outburst in the series finale with Burkburnett, the Lady Lions have mustered just six runs over seven games.
Vernon’s Jade Guzman tossed a three-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts and only one walk, and retired 11 Lady Lions in a row at one point.
“Their pitcher did a great job of keeping us off balance,” Lynn said. “We looked very uncomfortable at the plate, we couldn’t figure things out, and we didn’t make very good adjustments at the plate. I’m not going to take anything away from her, she pitched a heck of a game against us, had a good game plan and it worked very well.
“Hopefully we come out tomorrow and do a lot better. We’ll try and work on a few things tomorrow before we head out.”
Brownwood’s best chance to score came in the top of the second inning as Emily Perez led off with a single, advanced to second base on a wild pitch and reached third on a ground out by Alexis Larrea. Kayla McFarden walked with two outs, placing runners on the corners. The Lady Lions then attempted a double steal, but McFarden was tagged out at second base before Perez could make it to the plate.
Vernon then firmly wrestled away the momentum with the game’s lone run in the bottom of the second. Caroline Taylor led off with a double to center field, then Makyleigh Leija followed with a one-out RBI double up the middle.
Lady Lion pitcher Chyanne Ellett yielded the one run and five hits with 12 strikeouts and no walks.
“Chyanne’s stuff looked good, it was just unfortunate they strung two extra-base hits together in the same inning and got a run across, and that’s all they needed,” Lynn said.
Brownwood’s final gasp took place in the top of the sixth inning where Ayanna Clemons and Annie Gillispie reached on consecutive two-out singles, but Ellett popped out in foul territory to end the threat.