Brownwood pulls into tie for third place at district's halfway point

The Brownwood Lions hit for the cycle during a four-run third inning, which triggered their first District 6-4A baseball victory of the season, 8-1 over the rival Stephenville Yellow Jackets Tuesday night at Morris Southall Field.

The triumph was the third straight for the Lions, who defeated Brady, 9-2, and Carrollton Ranchview, 12-1, in non-district action before closing the first half of their 6-4A slate with a victory. At the midway point of the district schedule, the Lions (9-10, 1-3), Stephenville (10-12, 1-3) and Graham (10-10, 1-3) are all tied for third place behind Mineral Wells (12-7, 3-1) and top-ranked Abilene Wylie (17-2, 4-0).

“I’m really proud of the way these guys came out and played tonight,” said Lions head coach Herb Rios. “Being 0-3 in district can weight heavy on your mind, but the guys are continuing to fight and we found a way to get right back in the middle of this thing.”

The Lions generated 14 hits off the Stephenville pitching combination of Cole Harmon and Bradley Morrison. Rawlings Rios recorded three hits and three RBIs while Hayden Day chipped in two hits — including Brownwood’s first home run at home — and three RBIs as well. Tristan Chesser contributed a pair of hits and an RBI while Grant Fanara and Cole Fowler also finished with two hits apiece. Carson Cloy, Kory Owen and Mario Saldana finished with one hit each.

“One of the things we’ve struggled with is hitting guys that have thrown slow,” Rios said. “But we made some adjustments and did a great job tonight.”

Fanara got the win on the mound, working 5.1 innings and surrendering four runs — two earned — on eight hits with eight strikeouts and four walks. Fanara allowed two runners in each of the first three innings but got out of each of those jams without yielding a run.

Day came on in relief and recorded the final five outs, allowing one run on one hit with two walks and four strikeouts in the process.

“I thought it was a great performance on the mound by Grant and then Hayden did a great job to come in and finish it for us,” Rios said.

The Lions grabbed a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second as Justin Buchanan reached on a fielder’s choice, which resulted in the second out of the inning, but moved to third base on a single by Fowler and scored on a Harmon wild pitch during Saldana’s at-bat.

The fireworks were ignited in the bottom of the third as Cloy began the frame with a bloop single, then Fanara followed with a double. Rios was next up and scored both runners with a two-RBI triple to right-center field ahead of a two-run laser to dead center by Day which completed the cycle in succession — single, double, triple, home run — by the first four batters of the inning.

Brownwood stretched its lead to 8-0 in the fourth inning as Cloy reached on a fielder’s choice and Fanara reached on an error, then Rios knocked in Cloy and Day drove home Fanara — both with singles. Before the inning ended, Chesser singled home Blaine Hughes — running for Day.

Stephenville scored its first run in the fifth inning and shaved Brownwood’s lead in half, closing the gap to 8-4 in the top of the sixth.

The Lions tacked on one final run in the bottom of the sixth as Rios, who singled with one out, was balked home.

The Yellow Jackets loaded the bases in the top of the seventh on a walk, hit batter and error, and another base on balls allowed the fifth run to score. But with the tying run at the plate, Day recorded his fourth and final strikeout to seize the victory.

Brownwood will begin the second half of district play at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Mineral Wells. The Lions lost the first meeting, 11-4, on March 22.