Big innings sparked the Brownwood Lions to four victories at the Lampasas tournament over the weekend, and a five-run fifth proved to be the difference in Tuesday afternoon’s 6-3 triumph over the Bangs Dragons at Morris Southall Field.
Trailing 2-0 and 3-1, the Lions (11-4) took control of the game in the bottom of the fifth inning en route to their eighth win in a row.
“Coming off this weekend we played really well, hit the ball really well, but we kind of had a little let down today, I don’t know what it was,” said Lions second-year head coach Blandon Hancock. “We have to learn every time we go out there we have to play the best we can play. I’m proud of the guys, happy we’re on a win streak but we still need to play a little bit better.”
Trailing 3-1 heading to the bottom of the fifth, Cain Kittrell — the leadoff batter for the Lions — drew a walk, then Hunter Leonard singled to left field off Bangs pitcher Colton Brewer, who had allowed just four hits over the first four innings.
“Brewer did an excellent job on the mound but he’s still trying to get in a groove,” Bangs head coach Keith Meador said of the senior hurler, who yielded four runs — three earned — on six hits with five walks and five strikeouts in four-plus innings. “He hasn’t thrown a whole lot and that’s on me for leaving him in there a little too long. It was a good job by Brownwood of staying in the game and coming back.”
Gavon Clemons then stepped to the plate and ripped a two-RBI triple to the gap in right-center field, scoring Kittrell and Leonard to even the score at 3. On the same play, a wild throw to third base bounced into the Brownwood dugout after Clemons’ slide, and Clemons was awarded home plate as the Lions grabbed their first lead, 4-3.
Kadon Richards came on in relief of Brewer and allowed a single to Rylan Reagan and walks to Hayden Donahoo and Carlos Benites before being lifted in favor of Payton Bible.
With the bases still loaded and one out, Grayson Swanzy’s RBI sacrifice fly to right field brought home Reagan with the fifth run. Reece Rodgers followed with a single left field to again load the bases, and Donahoo later scored Brownwood’s final run on a passed ball.
“It’s a tough adjustment whenever you come from playing bigger schools where you see pitchers in the low 80s, high 70s, stuff like that compared to a game like this,” Hancock said. “I told the guys they were going to have to make the adjustment, and we didn’t make the adjustment until the fifth inning.”
On the mound for the Lions, Caleb Hernandez pitched a complete game, allowing three runs — one earned — on four hits with eight strikeouts, a pair of walks and four hit batters.
“He did great,” Hancock said of Hernandez’s performance. “When they scored early it was off errors and things we should have cleaned up. He always goes out and competes and that’s one thing about all of our pitchers, they’ve all competed. We need to work on walks a little bit, giving up free bases. I’d rather have people hit it all over the yard than to give up free bases.”
While Bangs (2-6) was dealt its fourth consecutive defeat, Meador saw plenty of positives out of the Dragons.
“I thought we played well, put the ball in play a lot better than we have the last few games and it benefitted us because Brownwood made some mistakes,” Meador said. “I’ve been telling my guys all year that if we put the ball in play instead of striking out so much good things will happen to us.”
Bangs grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first as Richards reached on an error to start the game, Ethan Sanchez singled and Brewer reached on another miscue that plated Richards. Kittrell, playing at second base, made a leaping stab on Zach Zink’s line drive that could have increased the Dragons’ lead to 3-0. Eli Carbajal then grounded to Swanzy at shortstop, who fired to Branson Koepp-Cox at the plate, and he tagged out Carbajal for the second out. Austin Hall then struck out, and Hernandez escaped a major jam allowing just one run.
The Dragons stretched their lead to 2-0 in the top of the third as Brewer led off with a double and scored on a two-out throwing error after Steven Montgomery legged out an infield single.
“You would think we never practice defense but defense is what we practice most,” Hancock said. “Maybe we just need to lay off of it or something. Those five errors gave us almost 60 errors in 15 games. Good baseball teams don’t do that and we need to clean that up, especially going into district, or that’s going to get us beat.”
The Lions cut Bangs’ lead in half, to 2-1, in the bottom of the third as Leonard doubled with one out and scored on Donahoo’s two-out RBI single to center.
The Dragons immediately answered with a run in the top of the fourth — their last of the game — as Richards was plunked by a pitch and scored on an RBI sacrifice fly by Brewer.
Brownwood is back in action at 1 p.m. Friday at Bridgeport seeking a nine-game win streak, while Bangs has a 10 a.m. Friday doubleheader scheduled at home against Windthorst.