The clutch hitting that was absent during the first half of District 6-4A competition was on brilliant display Friday night as the Brownwood Lady Lions improved their odds of reaching the playoffs for 12th consecutive season.
Behind a half dozen two-out runs — including the very last — the Lady Lions opened the second half of district action with a 7-6 walk-off victory over the 6-4A front-running Stephenville Honeybees, who lost for the first time in league action.
“This is probably the hardest-fought game I’ve seen them play all season,” said Lady Lions head coach Jessica Lynn, whose team won its second straight district contest. “We finally saw that passion to win and fight come out tonight. They were relentless, they weren’t going to give up and they didn’t want to lose at home. And it’s always fun to beat Stephenville.”
Brownwood (12-7, 2-3) avenged a 2-1 road loss to Stephenville (20-8, 4-1) in the 6-4A opener on March 18 and remained a game in front of Graham (9-14, 1-4) — a 2-1 extra-inning winner over Mineral Wells (13-9, 3-2) Friday night — for the fourth and final playoff spot in 6-4A.
“In this district every team is pretty close in talent so it comes down to whoever shows up and makes the plays,” said Lynn, whose team did just that.
With two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, Brownwood’s Danyelle Gongora — the No. 9 batter in the lineup — kept the frame alive with a line drive into right field. Leadoff hitter Ashley Gomez followed with a floater down the right field line, which landed in fair territory and bounced over the glove of the Honeybee (20-8, 4-1) outfielder, allowing Gongora to score the winning run all the way from first base.
“We were hoping the Friday win (8-6 over Graham), where we got quite a few hits, woke up a sleeping giant offensively,” Lynn said. “Not only did we hit the ball hard again tonight we got clutch hits with runners in scoring position when we needed them.”
Trailing 4-2 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning, another two-out rally turned the tied in favor of the Lady Lions.
Kristen Fuentes walked to start the inning and Alexis Larrea drew a one-out free pass, but was erased when Ayanna Clemons reached on a fielder’s choice, which resulted in the second out of the frame. Tori Burkett then singled up the middle to score Karly Harper, running for Fuentes at third base, and Clemons, who had stolen second base, to even the score at 4 apiece.
But the Lady Lions weren’t finished.
An RBI triple to right-center field by Gongora drove home Kori Posey, running for Burkett, with the go-ahead run, while Gomez followed with an RBI single to left field that plated Gongora to stretch Brownwood’s lead to 6-4.
Stephenville immediately answered in the top of the sixth as Emily Miller walked and scored on an RBI fielder’s choice by Jessica Howell, then a two-out RBI single from Kali Smith plated Howell with the tying run.
The Honeybees struck first with a run in the top of the first as Smith led off with a single and eventually scored on an RBI ground by Julia Flores.
The Lady Lions grabbed a 2-1 edge in the bottom of the first as Victoria Sanchez singled into right field with one out and Chyanne Ellett followed with an RBI double to the fence in right-center field. With two outs in the inning, an RBI single up the middle by Larrea plated Ryleigh Dalleh, running for Ellett.
Stephenville knotted the score at 2 in the fourth as Miller singled with one out, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on Howell’s RBI single to center field.
The Honeybees seized a 4-2 lead in the fifth as Morgan DiCiccio reached on an error and later scored on a passed ball. Meanwhile, a two-out RBI single down the first base line from Flores brought home Smith, who singled immediately after DiCiccio reached, to increase Stephenville’s lead to 4-2.
The Lady Lions collected 13 hits against Flores, led by four from Gomez, two each from Burkett and Gongora and one apiece from Sanchez, Ellett, Larrea, Fuentes and Clemons. Burkett and Gomez each recorded a pair of RBIs while Ellett, Larrea and Gongora contributed one each.
In the circle, Ellett went the distance and yielded eight hits and a walk, but struck out 11 batters and stranded five to notch the victory.
Brownwood will shoot for a three-game district win streak at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Mineral Wells.