Games 2 and 3, if needed, of regional championship series at 1 p.m. Saturday in Hawley
Whether it’s an opponent, a two-hour and 44-minute weather delay, or a 70-mile bus ride west during the middle of a game — nothing can derail the Brownwood Lady Lions’ momentum.
The Lady Lions moved within one victory of securing their second trip to the UIL Class 4A state softball tournament — and first berth in 20 years — with a 10-7 victory over the Snyder Lady Tigers Thursday night in Game 1 of the Region I-4A championship series.
A game that began in Hawley and ended in Hermleigh resulted in the 14th victory in the last 15 outings for the Lady Lions (24-8-1).
“This was a tough one because we haven’t had to go through something like that,” Lady Lions head coach Jessica Lynn said in regard to packing up and moving to another site due to thunderstorms in Hawley. “It’s hard to sit for more than an hour in the middle of the game and then start right back up, but they did a great job. I told the girls on the way over that they couldn’t sleep, they had to stay up and keep their energy up.”
Kayla McFarden, one of several offensive heroes in the game for the Lady Lions, added, “This was fun and something I’ll always remember. It was fun being on the bus with my teammates. We all stayed pumped up and it showed.”
The delay and move occurred during what turned out to be a four-run top of the fourth for the Lady Lions, who scored twice in Hawley and twice in Hermleigh.
Play was halted at 7:52 p.m. in Hawley and resumed at 10:36 p.m. in Hermleigh — just 15 miles away from Snyder (29-12), as the Lady Tigers’ crowd had tripled from what it was at the beginning of the game.
But it took only one pitch for the Lady Lions to silence the Snyder faithful.
On the first offering from Snyder’s Chloee James after action resumed, Lady Lion Alexis Larrea crushed a two-run home run over the left field fence, increasing Brownwood’s lead to 9-3 and wrestling away any momentum from the Lady Tigers.
“I’ve been swinging at the first pitch in almost every game,” Larrea said. “I wasn’t going to swing at this one, but it was right down the middle and I had to hit it.”
“That home run gave us all the momentum immediately,” Lynn said. “We moved the game, it was close to Snyder and they had fans show up that weren’t there earlier. They were loud but we fed off that and swung the momentum.”
When the fourth inning began in Hawley, the Lady Lions were up 5-3. Ayanna Clemons started the frame with a single to right field, then Chyanne Ellett came through with a two-out RBI single up the middle and Kristen Fuentes, who later scored on the Larrea blast, followed with an RBI double to left-center field that plated Ryleigh Dalleh, running for Ellett.
Later in Hermleigh, the Lady Lions’ lead reached seven runs, 10-3, in the top of the sixth inning. Ellett singled with two outs and Fuentes reached when Snyder shortstop Hailey Morris made an errant throw to first. Dalleh, running for Ellett, broke for third base on the play and the throw by first baseman Nicole Clark to third got away from the bag. Attempting to advance home, Dalleh got tangled up with third baseman Shayde Millican and obstruction was called, as home plate and the 10th run was awarded to Brownwood.
Snyder closed the gap to 10-7 in the top of the sixth as Megan Leatherwood was hit by a pitch to start the frame, then Bailey Garcia reached on a bunt single ahead on an RBI infield hit by Claudia Gutierrez. An RBI ground out by Morris closed the gap to 10-5 while Millican followed with an RBI triple and Jasmine Montoya picked up an RBI on a ground out.
Clinging to a three-run in the bottom of the seventh inning with the momentum gone, Ellett surrendered a leadoff triple to Cailey Coy. But Brownwood’s freshman pitcher came back to strike out Alyssa Benitez, got Leatherwood to pop out to Victoria Sanchez at shortstop and closed the victory with her 12th strikeout of the game against Garcia.
Ellett went the distance to notch her 20th win of the season as she yielded five earned runs on six hits to go along with her dozen strikeouts. Ellett also retired 13 batters in a row during one stretch.
“Chyanne had to stay mentally focused like the rest of the team,” Lynn said. “She got warmed back up and did a great job and went three up and three down the first two innings after we started back up. There was a little hiccup in the sixth inning, but other than that she did a great job and maintained her composure.”
The Lady Lions began the game with a 3-0 lead, seizing the advantage in the first inning as Brownwood went on to score in every frame but the fifth.
Ashley Gomez was hit by an offering from James to start the contest, then Sanchez followed with a single to left field. Ellett popped out in foul territory for the first out, while Gomez tagged and advanced to third base. An errant throw from the outfield allowed Gomez to advance home for a 1-0 lead.
Fuentes then doubled down the third base line, just inside the bag, which allowed Sanchez to race home with the second run. Following a single by Larrea into left field, McFarden doubled to right-center field to plate Fuentes with the third run.
“I told them since we hit first we have to scratch across some runs,” Lynn said. “We know Snyder’s a good team and we needed to get as many runs as we could. We did a great job scoring as often as we could in as many as innings as we could.”
Snyder answered with three runs in the bottom of the first to draw even at 3 as Garcia reached on a three-base error with one out. Gutierrez followed with an RBI single to left field that scored Garcia, then Morris doubled home Gutierrez to cut the deficit to 3-2. An RBI sacrifice fly by Millican drove home Morris with the tying run.
The Lady Lions regained a 4-3 edge in the top of the second as Sanchez doubled off the left wall with one out. Ellett followed with a fly out to right field, as Sanchez moved to third base following the out. But an errant throw back into the infield allowed Sanchez to break for home and break the tie.
Brownwood extended its lead to 5-3 with one out in the top of the third inning as McFarden launched a solo home run to left-center field, as the Lady Lions have tallied six home runs in their last seven games.
“I thought it was going to be right down the middle at first, but it was an inside pitch and I pulled it perfectly,” said McFarden, who had battled a recent slump at the plate. “It felt great to finally get on base and get going.”
By night’s end, the Lady Lions had collected 12 hits, including six for extra bases, off James — two each by Sanchez, Ellett, Fuentes, Larrea and McFarden and one apiece by Clemons and Emily Perez.
Snyder was in this same position a week ago, dropping Game 1 to Kennedale, 8-4, before rebounding for victories of 4-2 and 9-4. Lynn would like to see the Lady Lions avoid a third game at all costs Saturday, as the series is slated to resume in Hawley at 1 p.m.
“Like I told the girls last week, we’re going into Saturday’s game like it’s a one-game series and a must-win,” Lynn said. “If we don’t win it then Snyder has all the momentum. We just have to come out aggressive, the same way we did today.”