The Brownwood Lady Lions answered the Graham Lady Blues with a run in the bottom of the sixth. They did so again in the bottom of the eighth. But after 12 innings, the Lady Lions ran out of answers as Graham emerged with a crucial 4-3 victory in District 6-4A softball action.
“Twelve innings is tough to stay mentally focused in, but they did a very good job,” said Lady Lions head coach Jessica Lynn of her team’s performance. “I’m really proud of the girls. They fought hard.”
Graham (11-8, 4-3) moved into sole possession of second place in the 6-4A standings with the victory — one game behind Mineral Wells (14-8, 5-2) — while the Lady Lions (9-11, 3-5) slipped to fifth place in their regular season finale. Now the Lady Lions must wait until Friday to learn if their season will continue.
Stephenville (14-11, 3-4) and Abilene Wylie (12-14, 3-4) are currently tied for third place heading into the final night of the season. Stephenville battles Graham and Wylie tangles with Mineral Wells. If either Wylie or Stephenville loses, they will fall into a tie with the Lady Lions, and a one-game playoff will likely determine the fourth and final playoff seed as Brownwood split with both teams in district.
If both Wylie and Stephenville fall, there would be a three-way tie for third place, and a tiebreaker would be used to determine which two teams move on the playoffs.
In Tuesday’s outing, Lady Lion hurler Alexis Larrea struck out 15 batters and stranded 11 base runners over 12 innings.
“This was her best game by far,” Lynn said of Larrea’s effort in the circle. “She pitched awesome and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. Twelve innings is hard to pitch but she battled and kept us in the game.”
Graham still mustered a dozen hits and took advantage of a pair of Brownwood errors, which resulted in the decisive run in the top of the 12th.
Elizabeth Routon singled to center field to start the 12th, then moved to second base on a passed ball and reached third on a sacrifice by Lexi Allen. Nicole King then hit a towering fly ball down the left field line which was dropped, allowing Routon to race home with the winning run.
In the bottom of the 12th against Allen — who fanned 15 Lady Lions, surrendered just six hits and stranded 10 base runners — Brownwood was retired in order, with a pair of strikeouts.
Brownwood grabbed a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first as Kayla McFarden — who finished with three hits — singled with one out, followed by a Victoria Sanchez walk. With runners on second and third, Ashley Jones — who recorded three RBIs in a 7-5 win at Abilene Wylie Monday — plated McFarden on an RBI fielder’s choice.
Graham pulled even with two outs in the top of the third as Lana Plaster’s two-out RBI double to center field drove home Routon, who began the inning with an infield single.
Graham seized a 2-1 edge in the top of the fourth — again with two outs. After Graham loaded the bases on a Chyanne Lozowski walk, an errant throw that allowed Laura Barrett to reach and a bunt single by Riley Zimmer to start the frame, Larrea retired the next two batters before Allen delivered a go-ahead RBI single to left field.
But again Brownwood responded in the bottom of the sixth with its own two-out magic.
Sanchez walked with one out and Larrea reached on an error. Then, with two outs, Emily Perez drilled an RBI single up the middle the brought home Sanchez to even the score at 2.
Graham appeared to be poised to end the game in the top of the eighth as Plaster led off with a single and scored on a two-out RBI single to left field by Barrett.
The Lady Lions countered in the bottom of the eighth to prolong the contest. McFarden singled to start the frame and moved to second base on a ground out by Larrea for the second out. Jones then hit a roller deep in the gap between first and second base. Graham second baseman Taylor Johnson flagged down the ball and threw late to Plaster at first. The ball then bounced away from Plaster, allowing McFarden to sprint home and even the score at 3.