GEORGETOWN — The Brownwood Lions’ second straight trip to the postseason began with a near mirror image start to last year’s run to the Region II-4A semifinals.
The Lions dropped the opener of their best-of-three bi-district baseball series against the Ennis Lions, 3-0, Friday night at Rockwell Field on the campus of Southwestern University.
A year ago, Brownwood suffered a 12-0 loss in its playoff opener against Waxahachie, then reeled off six consecutive victories. Head coach Scotty Nichols is counting on the Lions to use that experience as they need two wins against Ennis at 1 p.m. to keep their season alive.
“We were in this position before last year and we preached to the guys after the game that we’re going to come out and win two baseball games tomorrow,” Nichols said. “That’s what we have to do. Our baseball lives depend on it.
“These guys are going to hurt a little bit tonight and they need to hurt and get that feeling in there. We told them there’s no place to hide after something like tonight. It’s going to be a big day tomorrow and we’re looking forward to it.”
If the Lions are to repeat as bi-district champions, they will have to find a spark for an offense that finished without a hit, struck out 12 times, sent just five balls out of the infield, left four base runners stranded and had a pair picked off.
Ennis pitcher Chris Lewis overcame a 52-pitch start over the first two innings and thoroughly confused the Lions as the game progressed. Lewis retired the side in order four times — including striking out three straight in the sixth inning — and escaped a two-on, no-out jam in the fourth with the game still very much in doubt.
“We knew coming in we would be facing a good lefty with a lot of junk,”
Nichols said. “Early on we hit the ball and I thought we would come around, but he kept us off balance. We started chasing stuff and that got his confidence going.
“If we could have got a couple of hits, maybe we could have made something happen.”
Instead, it was Ennis that took advantage of the breaks, which the Lions often provided as they committed a pair of errors and dished out seven walks.
Ennis broke a scoreless tie by scoring an unearned run on an error in the bottom of the third inning.
Seth Zhanel drew a one-out walk off Shelby Miller — who allowed two earned runs on two hits with eight strikeouts and six walks in 5.1 innings — then Jon Lewis followed with an infield single.
Weston Montgomery then hit an apparent double play ball to Lion second base Levi Perez, but the throw to first base was wild by shortstop Mike Thompson, which allowed Zhanel to race home with the first run.
The Lions appeared poised to at least pull even in the top of the fourth as Miller led off by reaching on an error, then Chase Holmes walked. Lewis responded by striking out Casey Pachall for the first out, then a base running blunder at second base led to the second out. Lewis then fanned Jacob Allen, which ended Brownwood’s best chance at scoring.
“You have to be focused when you come into game no matter what your position is or what your role is,” Nichols said. “We weren’t a couple of times. We missed a couple of signs tonight and just weren’t very well focused all the way around. That’s my fault, but we’ll be focused tomorrow I guarantee.”
Ennis tacked on a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth as Lewis doubled off Miller to start the inning, then Rusty Collins walked. An RBI sacrifice fly by Matt Gunn chased Miller and gave Ennis a 2-0 lead.
Reliever Garrett Goodwin came on and walked Corey Betik, then Edward Ortiz reached on an error. A bases-loaded free pass to Zhanel accounted for the final run.
“Man for man I don’t think they’re any better of a team than we are,” Nichols said. “Tonight they played good and made the plays when they needed to. We didn’t help ourselves any when we had a chance.”