A one-run lead. Two outs. Two strikes.
And then — it was all gone.
One pitch away from forcing a four-way tie for second place in the District 6-4A baseball standings, the Brownwood Lions witnessed the Stephenville Yellow Jackets tally four two-out runs in the top of the seventh inning en route to a 6-4 victory.
With the win, Stephenville (10-10, 4-4) clinched sole possession of second place in District 6-4A, while the Lions (10-14, 2-6) missed the playoffs with a fifth-place league finish and ended the season with six consecutive losses — the exact same way it began.
Had the Lions won, Brownwood, Stephenville, Graham and Mineral Wells all would have posted 3-5 league records, and a four-way playoff would have determined the three teams to advance to the postseason. Now, Graham (11-11, 3-5) and Mineral Wells (9-11, 3-5) will decide the district’s third and fourth playoff seeds.
Leading 3-2 as the seventh inning began, Brownwood starting pitcher Dylan Agan — who surrendered just two runs on five hits over the first six frames — recorded his ninth and final strikeout against Stephenville’s Alex Jimenez.
Next up was Brock Morrison, who dribbled a slow roller shy of third base. Agan hopped off the mound and fielded the ball in front of Brownwood third baseman Trent Carlton, but Agan lost his footing turning to throw to first, and Morrison was safe.
Bradley Morrison followed with a ground out to first, but Brock Morrison advanced to second base.
With two down, two strikes and a couple of foul balls on Sam Weber, Agan’s final pitch of the at-bat was grounded into left field, past the diving glove of shortstop Rawlings Rios. Brock Morrison, running on contact, beat the throw to the plate, and the game was tied at 3.
The damage wasn’t over, unfortunately.
Cole Harmon then drew a walk and Josh Bulla was hit by a pitch, which loaded the bases and resulted in a pitching change. Brownwood head coach Herb Rios put Kory Owen on the mound, who worked his first batter — Kaegun Williams — to a two-strike count. But Williams became the second straight Yellow Jacket to be plunked by a pitch, and Weber came home with the go-ahead run, giving Stephenville a 4-3 lead.
Josh Olivan then stepped to the plate and, again with two strikes, the Yellow Jackets managed to deliver. Olivan’s sharp single in to left drove in two more Stephenville runs, as the Lions were facing a 6-3 deficit by the end of the frame.
The Lions didn’t go quietly in the bottom of the seventh, however, as Justin Buchanan led off with a walk and scored on an RBI triple to right-center field by Pablo Salazar. Salazar finished with two of Brownwood’s four hits and three RBIs.
With Salazar on third and one out, Bulla — who went the distance and tossed a four-hitter with nine strikeouts — was able to retire Carlton and Hayden Day on strikeouts to end Brownwood’s campaign.
In the first meeting between Brownwood and Stephenville on April 10, the Lions led 2-0 until the Yellow Jackets scored three runs in the bottom of the fifth en route to the victory. The same script, with the roles reversed, almost came to pass Wednesday.
Stephenville grabbed a 2-0 advantage in the top of the first as Harmon’s two-out, two-RBI single scored Ben Martin, who reached on a leadoff hit, and Jimenez, who drew a walk.
Despite putting their first two batters on base in the second and third innings, the Yellow Jackets were unable to extend their lead as Agan stranded nine base runners.
The Lions then struck for three runs in the bottom of the fifth to steal the momentum.
Owen led off with a double to left field, then Carson McAnally followed with a walk. With one out, Carson Cloy laid down a sacrifice bunt that was fielded by Bulla, who threw wildly to first base, allowing Jeremy Brown — running for Owen — to score the first run.
Salazar immediately followed with a two-RBI single to the gap in right-center field, as McAnally and Cloy scored the tying and go-ahead runs for the Lions.