Only one team in the history of the Brownwood Lady Lions softball program has reached the UIL state tournament. Come Saturday, the 2016 edition of the Lady Lions hope to have doubled that number.
The Lady Lions (23-8-1), winners of 13 of their last 14 outings, square off with former and future district rival Snyder (29-11) at 7 p.m. Thursday in Hawley in Game 1 of their Region I-4A championship series. Games 2 and 3, if needed, will follow at 1 p.m. Saturday back in Hawley.
Brownwood is coming off a regional semifinals sweep of Big Spring — another future district rival — by scores of 4-1 and 6-2 this past weekend at Angelo State.
After generating 20 runs in two games against Andrews — including a 14-run inning — during the regional quarterfinals, Big Spring was limited to three runs over 14 innings by Brownwood.
The Lady Lions are facing a Snyder squad that needed three games to oust Kennedale in the regional semifinals. The Lady Tigers dropped the series opener, 8-4, but rallied for victories of 4-2 in Game 2 and 9-4 in Game 3.
Snyder’s loss in the series opener snapped a nine-game win streak as the Lady Tigers — who led 2-0 after half an inning — gave up four runs in the bottom of the first inning and three more in the fifth. Pitcher Chloe James yielded seven earned runs on 10 hits with two walks and a strikeout. Offensively, Snyder left seven runners on base.
In Game 2 of the series, Snyder’s Megan Leatherwood went the distance in the circle and pitched six scoreless innings before allowing two runs in the seventh. She finished with seven strikeouts and six hits surrendered.
Offensively, Hailey Morris led the charge as she was 2 for 3 with a triple and three RBIs. Leatherwood added two hits and one hit apiece came from Bailey Garcia and Claudia Gutierrez.
In the series-clinching victory, Snyder raced out to a 4-0 lead in the second inning, which Kennedale reduced to 4-3 in the third. The Lady Tigers responded with another four-spot in the fourth to pull away.
Morris again was 2 for 3 with three RBIs, Leatherwood went 2 for 4 with a pair of RBIs and Jasmine Montoya finished with three hits and an RBI. Nicole Clark contributed two hits and an RBI, Gutierrez, and Cailey Coy also drove in a run each and Alyssa Benitez tallied two hits.
James returned to the circle and collected the victory, yielding four runs on 10 hits with three strikeouts and two walks.
Prior to reaching the regional semifinals, Snyder downed Dalhart, 10-0, in a one-game bi-district playoff; swept Seminole, 13-10 and 13-8 in the area round; and took two straight from Pampa, 5-4 and 11-1, in the regional quarterfinals.
The Lady Tigers also tallied a pair of wins over Big Spring — 8-5 on April 19 and 7-2 on April 2 — and Brownwood’s District 6-4A rival Graham — 7-1 on Feb. 27 — earlier this season.
Brownwood’s path to the regional final included a 14-1 bi-district win over Iowa Park; a 1-0, 8-6 sweep of Godley in the area round; a three-game triumph over Abilene Wylie in the regional quarterfinals, rallying from a 7-6 Game 1 loss with victories of 6-2 and 5-4 in nine innings; and last weekend’s sweep of Big Spring.
The Lady Lions enter the series averaging 5.3 runs per game and batting .345 as a team for the season.
Offensively, Brownwood is guided by Chyanne Ellett (.462, 4 HRs, 24 RBIs), Kristen Fuentes (.439, 5 HRs, 25 RBIs), Ayanna Clemons (.386, HR, 21 RBIs), Ashley Gomez (.382, 2 HRs, 19 RBIs), Alexis Larrea (.342, HR, 22 RBIs), Victoria Sanchez (.308, HR, 7 RBIs), Emily Perez (.291, HR, 13 RBIs), Tori Burkett (.264, 12 RBIs) and Kayla McFarden (.253, 5 RBIs).
Among the offensive heroes in the Big Spring series, Fuentes belted a two-run homer in Game 1 while Larrea and Perez doubled, with Perez picking up an RBI. In Game 2, Sanchez collected four hits and scored two runs, while Larrea recorded three RBIs with two hits.
In the circle, the Lady Lions own a 2.13 team ERA in 200 innings of action. However, Ellett has seen the bulk of the work since district action began and owns a 19-6 record with a 1.49 ERA and 230 strikeouts over 159.2 innings.
Brownwood gives up 3.2 runs per game on average for the season and in the last four outings no opponent has mustered more than four runs against the Lady Lions.
Defensively, Brownwood committed just one error in the Big Spring series.
SEND OFF FOR LADY LIONS
There will be a send off for the Brownwood Lady Lions softball team at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at the high school. The Lady Lions will be heading to Hawley for Game 1 of their Region I-4A championship series against Snyder, which begins at 7 p.m.