In a season filled with its share of ups and downs, the Brownwood Lady Lions experienced their peak Monday.
A battle between teams who once squared off for the District 6-4A lead with identical 2-0 league marks saw the Lady Lions outlast the Abilene Wylie Lady Bulldogs, 7-6, at Lady Lion Stadium to lock up the district’s fourth and final playoff berth.
“It wasn’t the prettiest route to the playoffs, but the last three games have probably been the best three we’ve played all year,” said Lady Lions head coach Jessica Lynn, as Brownwood qualified for the playoffs for the 11th consecutive year. “Going into the playoffs, we’re feeling very excited to be there.”
The postseason doesn’t begin quite yet for the Lady Lions, however, as first they must square off with Stephenville at 6 p.m. today in Eastland to determine the third and fourth seeds from 6-4A. Brownwood (10-11, 3-5), Wylie (12-16, 3-5) and Stephenville (14-12, 3-5) finished tied for third in district, but Stephenville owned a 3-1 record against the Lady Lions and Lady Bulldogs, while those teams posted 2-2 marks, thus the Honeybees received a bye. Having split their two district games, Brownwood and Stephenville must now break their tie.
Monday’s victory also marked Brownwood’s first home 6-4A win at the revamped Lady Lion Stadium.
“Focus had a lot to do with it,” second baseman Ashley Gomez said. “We faced a lot of downfall throughout the entire season and we learned to fight as a team, not only for ourselves, but for our town. We deserve this.”
Trailing 4-1 in the bottom of the second inning, the Lady Lions — who at one point dropped four consecutive district contests — received a jolt of life from an unexpected source. First baseman JaKobee Holloway, who has only been starting for a couple of weeks, blasted a line drive two-run home run over the left field fence off Jordan Benson — who lasted just two innings — to quickly bring the Lady Lions within a run. Holloway’s shot also plated Tristan Escamilla, running for catcher Tori Burkett, who walked to start the frame.
“I was pretty nervous going up there,” Holloway said. “It was kind of nerve racking. I was just hoping to hit it. It was a little outside, but it felt good, though.”
Lynn added, “You don’t always expect a big home run from the bottom of the lineup, but it’s always nice when you get it. That was clutch.”
Still trailing 4-3, the Lady Lions continued to build momentum.
With one out Gomez, doubled to center field, then moved to third base on a ground out by Kayla McFarden. Victoria Sanchez delivered a crucial two-out RBI single up the middle to drive home Gomez and even the score at 4.
Wylie jumped back in front, 6-4, in the top of the fourth on RBI singles by Kamwren Jackson and Morgan Mason. But again, Brownwood had an answer.
Facing Wylie ace pitcher Kaylee Rowe in a relief role, the Lady Lions struck for three runs in the bottom of the fourth to claim their first lead of the contest. Raeann Gongora drew a leadoff walk followed by a fielder’s choice from Gomez, an intentional walk to McFarden and a drawn walk by Sanchez, which loaded the sacks with one out. Alexis Larrea then slapped a two-RBI single into right field to plate Gomez and McFarden with the tying runs. Ashley Jones followed with a line drive off the pitcher’s glove, allowing Sanchez to race home with what turned out to be the winning run.
“I told them that we were going to have to match Wylie inning for inning,” Lynn said. “They got two in the fourth and then we got a rally going and were able to scratch across that last run.”
Emily Perez tossed a complete game for the Lady Lions, allowing just two earned runs on 12 hits with one strikeout and three walks. Perez left eight base runners stranded and did not a surrender a run over the final three frames.
The Lady Lions chalked up 10 hits as a team, with two each coming from Gomez, Sanchez and Larrea. McFarden, Jones, Burkett and Holloway added one each.
Wylie grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the first on back-to-back RBI bases-loaded walks by Benson and Jackson.
Brownwood cut the deficit in half, 2-1, in the bottom of the first as Larrea’s RBI ground plated Gomez, who led off with a single to right.
The Lady Bulldogs’ lead peaked at 4-1 in the top of the second following an errant throw — one of two Lady Lion miscues — and an RBI single by Mason.