GRAFORD — The Brownwood Lady Lions took different routes to achieve the same result, and again displayed their prowess for coming out victorious in close contests.
The District 6-4A runner-up Lady Lions returned to the Region I-4A softball quarterfinals by sweeping the District 7-4A champion Godley Lady Cats, 1-0 and 8-6, in area playoff action here Friday, running their win streak to nine games in the process.
Of those nine victories, seven have been by two runs or less for the Lady Lions, who again have matched their deepest postseason run since advancing to the 1996 state tournament.
“This is what we were talking about at the beginning of the season,” Lady Lions head coach Jessica Lynn said of her team’s performance over the last month. “Once we brought it all together we knew we could be very, very good, and we’ve seen that for the last four or five weeks. If we can keep playing this way we can go pretty far because I don’t think there are very many teams that are better.”
In the third round, the Lady Lions (19-7) will face District 6-4A rival Abilene Wylie, which swept District 8-4A champion Decatur Friday. Brownwood took two of three from Wylie earlier this season.
LADY LIONS 1, GODLEY 0
In the opener, the Lady Lions struck out 13 times and recorded only five hits, but generated the game’s only run with two outs in the top of the first inning as pitcher Chyanne Ellett and the Brownwood defense took care of the rest.
Ellett needed just 89 pitches to toss a four-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts while the defense committed just one error behind her.
“She’s been pumped since Thursday and the whole bus ride over here she was ready to go,” Lynn said of Ellett. “I was very confident in her and she looked great.”
Offensively, Victoria Sanchez doubled to the fence in left field with one out in the first. Ellett then reached on an error, while Kayla McFarden reached on a two-out walk. With the bases loaded, Alexis Larrea’s RBI single up the middle plated Sanchez with the only run.
“I was very pleased with how we came out aggressive at the plate,” Lynn said. “We were batting first and I told them we needed to scratch one across to get the momentum. We did that and I thought we could have gotten more, but one was enough.”
Ashley Gomez singled with two outs in the second, Ellett added a third-inning lead off hit and Kristen Fuentes started the sixth with a single to account for the other Brownwood hits.
Only once did Godley (21-8) begin an inning with the leadoff batter reaching base, that coming in the sixth on an Abby Reeves single to center. The only extra base hit for the Lady Cats was a two-out double in the bottom of the second by Nicole Yarbrough.
Among the defensive highlights for the Lady Lions was a diving stop by the second baseman Gomez in the third inning, while McFarden made a leaping catch near the wall in center field.
LADY LIONS 8, GODLEY 6
In the nightcap, the Lady Lions spotted Godley a three-run advantage, but roared back with the next seven runs. Leading by four runs in the top of the seventh, a phenomenal defensive play from McFarden quashed Godley’s attempted rally.
The Lady Cats began the seventh with a triple by Tana Reeves then Cheyenne Barber drew a walk off Ellett and Jordyn Logan was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs.
Reeves scored on a passed ball, then Yarbrough smashed a ball into the left-field gap. McFarden, on a dead run to her backhand side, made a leaping catch in stride as only one run scored on a sacrifice fly.
With one out and a runner on third in an 8-6 game — opposed to an 8-7 contest with no outs and the tying run at second — Ellett recorded her 10th and 11th strikeouts to clinch the victory.
“She has amazing range and I always tell her to give it all you’ve got because you never know when you’re going to be able to catch one,” Lynn said of McFarden’s momentum-shifting grab. “You can tell she left it all out there on that catch.”
A bit of misfortune resulted in Brownwood falling into a 3-0 hole in the top of the second inning.
Logan doubled off the top of the center field wall to start the second one pitch after popping up behind the plate, but catcher Tori Burkett was unable to find the ball in foul territory.
Next up was Yarbrough, who hit a fly ball into shallow right field, but no one attempted to catch it. The backspin on the ball scooted it away from right fielder Raeann Gongora for an RBI triple.
Cheyenne Griggs followed with a walk and later moved to second, and both Griggs and Yarbrough scored on a two-out, two-RBI single up the middle by Cinzia Reverberi.
The Lady Lions immediately answered with three runs in the bottom of the second to draw even.
McFarden reached on a dropped line drive in center field, then Emily Perez and Burkett drew back-to-back walks. With the bases loaded and two outs, Ayanna Clemons looped a two-RBI double down the left field line. Gomez followed with an RBI sacrifice fly to deep center field that almost left the yard.
Brownwood then tacked on four more runs in the third inning to seize control.
Fuentes doubled off the top of the left field wall with one out, then McFarden reached on an infield single. With two outs, the Lady Lions drew three straight walks off Abby Reeves. Perez loaded the bases, then Burkett and Clemons picked up RBIs as the Lady Lions grabbed a 5-3 lead. Gomez followed with a two-RBI single into shallow right-center field to pad the cushion to 7-3.
“They jumped out on us but we really responded well,” Lynn said. “We knew their pitcher had just thrown seven innings and we knew to be patient and make her throw a lot of pitches. She wasn’t throwing very many strikes there at one point and when she was they were very hittable pitches.”
Godley cut the deficit to 7-4 in the fifth as Abby Reeves doubled and later scored on an error, but the Lady Lions got the run back in the bottom of the inning as Perez doubled and scored on an RBI fielder’s choice by Gomez.
The Lady Lions finished with seven hits to go along with a half dozen walks.
Gomez tallied just one hit but collected four RBIs, while Clemons recorded two hits and three RBIs. McFarden and Perez also chipped in hits, while Perez walked twice and Burkett drew three free passes.
In the circle, Ellett again went the distance and yielded six runs — four earned — on eight hits with a pair of walks and 11 strikeouts, giving her 21 strikeouts in the series.