With the second half of District 5-4A baseball action set to begin Friday night, the Brownwood Lions experienced their third loss in four games Tuesday, falling at Morris Southall Field to the Lampasas Badgers, 8-6, in non-district action.
The Lions (15-8) defeated Lampasas (13-9) on the Badgers’ home turf, 15-1, back on March 10, but left 15 base runners stranded in the rematch.
“There were three innings that we had the bases loaded with one out and we struck out,” said Lions head coach Blandon Hancock. “We have to put the ball in play to try and score runs to give us some momentum. We weren’t able to do that and that’s just a lack of focus and a lack of mental toughness.”
In their last four games, the Lions have scored 15 runs — an average of 3.75 per outing, down considerably from their 7.1 runs per game average for the season.
“Three of the last four games we’ve had letdowns,” Hancock said. “We’re not doing what we’re supposed to do, we’re not competing the way we’re supposed to compete. We’ve kind of laid down. The injury bug has got us, we’ve got three starters that are out and that’s tough. We’re coming with role players and expecting them to get big hits in big situations, but that’s the game of baseball.
“The things we can fix are things we should have fixed at the first of the year. There’s a lot of walks, a lot of errors, it’s kind of been a pattern all year and hitting’s bailed us out, but hitting’s not bailing us out right now.”
The Lions tallied single runs in the first, second, fourth and sixth innings, and finally pushed across a pair in the bottom of the seventh. But the game ended with the sacks full of Lions.
“We don’t go up there and follow the approach,” Hancock said. “We try to do our own thing. I told them when you go through a lull like that it comes back to bite you when you really need it.”
Lampasas, meanwhile, scored four runs in the second, two more in the fourth and added another two-spot in the sixth.
A.J. McCarty and Cain Kittrell finished with three hits apiece for the Lions, while Grayson Swanzy contributed two. Those three batters comprised the first three in the lineup, while the rest of the batting order mustered two hits — one by Gavon Clemons and another by Caleb Hernandez.
In Brownwood’s half of the first, McCarty led off with a single and scored on Kitrrell’s RBI single to left.
Down 4-1 in the bottom of the second, the Lions got a run back when Swanzy’s RBI infield single plated Hernandez, who reached on an error.
Brownwood closed the gap to 6-3 in the fourth as McCarty again started the frame with a single, and Kittrell delivered an RBI base hit.
Trailing 8-3, Brownwood tacked on another run in the sixth as McCarty reached on a single and came home on an error.
The Lions appeared poised for a remarkable comeback in the seventh as Carlos Benites, Isyah Campos and McCarty all walked to begin the inning. With the sacks full and one out, Benites scored on a wild pitch, then Kittrell walked to load the bags again. Clemons followed with an RBI single into left field that plated Campos to close the gap to 8-6.
But with the tying run at second base and winning run at first, Hayden Donahoo and Rylan Reagan were retired on strikeouts as Lampasas escaped with the victory.
The Lions resume district play at home at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Big Spring (12-12, 0-5). Brownwood defeated the Steers, 11-5 in extra innings, on the road in the league opener.
“We just have to learn how to win and how to compete,” Hancock said. “We had that mentality at the first of the year and then we’ve just let it go. The thing we need to do is learn how to compete every single at bat and not wait until the end of the game to come back.”