Coming off a bi-district championship in a one-game playoff against District 6-4A third seed Burkburnett, the District 5-4A tri-champion Brownwood Lady Lions have a little more breathing room as they face the District 8-4A champion Alvarado Lady Indians in the Region I-4A area round of the playoffs.
A best-of-three series begins at 7 p.m. Thursday at Brock, with Game 2 to follow at 7 p.m. Friday and Game 3, if needed, set for 1 p.m. Saturday — all at the same location.
Despite Thursday's game not being an all or nothing contest, Brownwood head coach Jessica Lynn wants the Lady Lions (20-6-1) to treat it that way.
“If something goes wrong the first game I'm glad we've got another one, but we're going to approach it like it's another one-game playoff,” Lynn said. “I feel like we need to win the first one and be in control of the series. You don't want to get relaxed because you have two more games as a safety net.”
Alvarado (23-10) is coming off a bi-district series sweep of Benbrook, picking up five-inning wins of 10-0 and 12-1.
“It's going to be a good matchup,” Lynn said. “They're a team that I think we match up well against and it should be two or three really good games.
“We know they've got some speed, some good bats and a left-handed pitcher that's pretty good from what we've heard. We went and watched them last weekend, but their left-handed pitcher wasn't throwing, and they weren't playing a very good team, so we didn't get to see a whole lot.”
Alvarado scored 22 runs on 30 hits, and the top four batters in the order did the bulk of the damage — combining for 19 hits, 16 RBIs and 16 runs scored.
Leadoff batter Faith Waugh was 4 for 7 with two walks and five runs scored over the two games. The No. 2 batter in the order, Haidyn Ransdell, was 5 for 8 with five runs and four RBIs. The No. 3 batter, Kaitlyn Woodlee. finished 5 for 8 with five RBIs and five runs. And the cleanup batter, Lakayla Cole, was 5 for 6 with seven RBIs and a run scored.
“We couldn't tell a whole lot when they were playing Benbrook, but from what we've heard they have a solid top four and then it drops off after that,” Lynn said.
Woodlee is also the left-handed ace in the circle and in Game 1 she worked four innings, yielding four hits with 12 strikeouts. Brooke Nalley pitched Game 2 and the final inning of Game 1, allowing one run on five hits with two strikeouts and two walks in six total innings.
Brownwood has fared well against left-handed pitchers recently, picking up four wins in district — two over Abilene Wylie and two over Snyder — against southpaws.
“Coming from that side of the body isn't anything new for the girls,” Lynn said.
The Lady Lions are batting .357 as a team with a .427 on-base percentage while averaging 7.2 runs per game. Leading hitters include Annie Gillispie (.462, HR, 22 RBIs), Ryleigh Dalleh (.442, 10 RBIs), Ashlynn Patteson (.424, 23 RBIs), Ayanna Clemons (.397, 2 HRs, 17 RBIs), Aubrie Harris (.365, 17 RBIs), Chyanne Ellett (.301, 4 HRs, 18 RBIs), Yisel Mendoza (.296, HR, 16 RBIs), Aubrey Holden (.292, 5 RBIs), Landry Holden (.262, 16 RBIs) and Mya McDowell (.258, 10 RBIs).
In Brownwood's 8-2 bi-district win over Burkburnett, the Lady Lions scored twice in the first inning, pulled away with four runs in the fourth and put the game on ice with a two-run sixth. Brownwood finished with seven hits — three from Patteson, who drove in a run, two from Harris, who knocked in two, a double and a pair of RBIs from Ellett and a single from Dalleh.
In the circle, Ellett (19-6, 1.54 ERA, 264 strikeouts, 45 walks in 154.1 innings) overcame a shaky first inning to toss yet another no-hitter, striking out 13 and walking five. A hit batter and a walk scored on the first of three Brownwood errors just three batters into the contest. From that point on, however, Burkburnett had no more than one runner reach base in an inning.
“They came out of that game with a lot of confidence because they turned things around pretty quick,” Lynn said. “I'm pretty sure those first few mistakes were probably nerves, being the first inning of the first playoff game of the year. I'm hoping we jump into this next one solid defensively and pick up where we left off hitting-wise. We made some good plays defensively after the first inning.”
With the speed and talent that Alvarado possesses, being sharp from the first pitch will be critical for the Lady Lions.
“We're going to have to bring our 'A' game every game,” Lynn said. “Hopefully it's just two games, but we're going to have to be solid in all aspects — base running, hitting, fielding and pitching — to pull out two wins this weekend. We have to play solid defense, we can't throw the ball around.”
The winner of the weekend series will advance to face either District 6-4A runner-up Vernon or District 8-4A fourth seed Godley in the regional quarterfinals.