The Brownwood Lions finished in a tie for second place in the final District 5-4A baseball standings, but will be the league’s third playoff seed following Tuesday night’s 10-9 victory over the Sweetwater Mustangs at Morris Southall Field.
In the regular season finale, Cain Kittrell scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the seventh — one of four Brownwood runs to cross the plate due to a wild pitch — to secure the victory for the Lions.
“This was the kind of effort and the kind of things you want to see going into the playoffs,” said Lions second-year head coach Blandon Hancock. “We didn’t play our best game by any means, but we’re starting to follow the approach at the plate, put the ball in play and it’s exciting. Hopefully we can get hot once we get going in the playoffs.”
Brownwood (17-10, 4-4) and Sweetwater (13-12, 4-4) finished with identical district records and split their series. Due to scheduling conflicts, the teams opted to flip a coin to determine seeding, which the Lions lost. Therefore, Brownwood will be the district’s No. 3 playoff seed and face Vernon the weekend of May 3-5. A date, location and whether the playoff will be one-game or a series was not finalized at press time.
The Lions finished Tuesday’s game with just seven hits compared to 16 by Sweetwater, but Brownwood also drew three walks, four batters were hit by pitches and the Mustangs committed five errors to go along with the four run-scoring wild pitches.
“Usually when you see 16 hits, you’re thinking wall bangers, but instead they were ground balls in the hole we were fielding but just not making the throw in time,” Hancock said. “They also had a flare here and there.
“Our kids did a good job tonight of when Sweetwater would score some runs, we’d come back and respond. Whether or not we scored on a wild pitch, we still had to get on base. And we did that whether it was a hit or a walk or being hit. We got on base, created pressure and put the pressure on them and then things like tonight happen.”
The Lions led 8-4 after three innings before Sweetwater charged back to regain a 9-8 advantage in the top of the fifth. Brownwood knotted the score at 9 in the bottom of the frame as Kittrell’s two-out pop fly was dropped at third base, allowing Damion Jones, who reached on a one-out single, to score the tying run.
The winning run in the seventh was set up when Kittrell singled with two outs and moved to third on a hit-and-run single to left field by Grayson Swanzy. Three pitches later, Kittrell scored on a wild pitch.
Swanzy also pitched the last three innings in relief to notch the win, allowing just two hits with three strikeout and one walk. Hayden Donahoo got the start and gave up nine runs — five earned — on 14 hits with two strikeout and a walk.
“Grayson was feeling it tonight and he told us whenever we were warming up,” Hancock said. “We were making sure he was good to go if Donahoo needed to come out. Donahoo ran into a little trouble in the fifth and Grayson got in there and shut the door.”
Trailing 1-0 after one inning, the Lions grabbed a 5-1 advantage in the bottom of the second. The bases were loaded with two outs as Carlos Benites and A.J. McCarty were plunked by pitches, while Rowdee Gregory reached on a single. Benites tied the game when he scored on a wild pitch, then consecutive walks to Kittrell and Swanzy put the Lions in front, 2-1. Gavon Clemons followed with a two-RBI single that plated McCarty and Blaize Espinoza, running for Kittrell, while Rylan Reagan knocked in Swanzy with an RBI single.
Sweetwater quickly closed the gap to 5-4 in the top of the third, but the Lions answered with three more runs — all on wild pitches. With the bases loaded ,the first two pitches by Tony Heredia, who came on in relief of Mason Maxwell, were off the mark. Benites and Jones, who were both hit by pitches, scored on the first wild pitch while McCarty, who singled, came home on the second.
McCarty, Kittrell, Clemons, Reagan, Gregory, Jones and Swanzy recorded the Brownwood hits.