After a 10-day layoff between games, the Brownwood Lady Lions were presented an opportunity to secure at least a share of the District 5-4A softball championship in Friday's final home game of the regular season. Instead, the Big Spring Lady Steers snared a snare of the district title by completing a regular season sweep of the Lady Lions, 6-4.
With the loss, the Lady Lions (18-6-1, 4-3) are now in a three-way tie with Abilene Wylie (12-11, 4-3) and Sweetwater (15-7, 4-3) for second place heading into Tuesday's last game of the regular season. Wylie and Sweetwater play each other, so at least one other team will share the district title with Big Spring (14-5, 5-3), which has its district bye Tuesday. The Lady Lions must defeat Snyder (12-17, 1-6) on the road Tuesday to create a three-way tie for the district crown.
“(Thursday) we had a good practice so I was expecting good things today,” Lady Lions head coach Jessica Lynn said after Brownwood's second loss in a row. “I expect them to come out and work hard Monday and then Tuesday is a must-win if we want any part of the district championship. We're still going to make the playoffs, but this is a do or die if we want a share of that district championship.”
Like their 8-7 loss at Big Spring on March 23, errors played a key role in the Lady Lions' defeat Friday. Brownwood committed five errors in the first meeting, and four more in the rematch as only one of Big Spring's runs was earned.
Prior to Friday, the Lady Lions' last outing fell on April 3, a 3-2 loss at Sweetwater. Brownwood had its district bye on April 6 followed by STAAR testing Tuesday, as no games were scheduled. But Lynn didn't use the layoff as an excuse for the Lady Lions' struggles.
"We did a good job going three up and three down in the first inning, which is not what we did the first game,” Lynn said. “We were aggressive at the plate and Chyanne (Ellett) looked good. We got the lead and, like last time, just started making errors. I'm not really sure what it was, it's stuff we do every day but it's definitely something we can work on. We just have to make plays. They know how to make those plays, they just have to do it."
Brownwood led 1-0 after one inning as Ellett retired the Lady Steers in order, while shortstop Annie Gillispie led off the bottom of the first with a solo home run — her first of the season. From the top of the second inning to the bottom of the seventh, however, Big Spring dominated the action.
Big Spring grabbed a 2-1 lead in the top of the second as Maddie Daniels led off with a walk and scored when Jocelyn Gonzales reached on a one-out three-base error. An RBI ground out by Cierra Martinez plated Gonzales with the go-ahead run.
The Lady Steers stretched their lead to 4-1 in the third as Kynleigh Joy led off by reaching on another Brownwood error, Alexis Starr singled to left field with two outs and Martinez drove both home with a double to left-center field.
Big Spring tacked on two more runs in the fourth as Leah Davilla reached on an error to begin the frame, then a single and three-base error during Gonzales' at-bat resulted in the Lady Steers' final two runs.
The Lady Lions made little noise at the plate until the bottom of the seventh inning, as Big Spring's Daniels gave up eight hits, but struck out six and left three base runners stranded.
“(Daniels) moves the ball pretty well but we should be able to make adjustments and get hits,” Lynn said. “I thought we were going to get rolling but we never did, and I really don't know why. She had our number those middle innings. We hit the ball hard a couple of times, but we didn't string them together. I was a little surprised we weren't hitting any better than we were.”
In the bottom of the seventh, first baseman Ryleigh Dalleh led off with a double to left-center field and Mya McDowell followed with a walk. With runners on second and third and one out, Aubrie Harris' base hit got past Abby Luna in the outfield, allowing both base runners to score. With Harris on third and one out, Ashlynn Patteson's bloop to center field fell safely, cutting the deficit to 6-4. But with one out and the tying run at the plate, Brownwood's rally ended there as Big Spring left victorious.
"(Big Spring) outplayed us all the way around today which is a little disappointing because I know we're better than this," Lynn said. "It's just how it went today.”
Gillispie, Ellett and Dalleh finished with two hits each for Brownwood, while Harris and Patteson added one.
Ellett tossed a five-hitter, allowing one earned run with nine strikeouts and one walk.