BOYD — It took a while for the Brownwood Lady Lions to crank up their offense, but three runs in the top of the eighth inning — on the heels of pitcher Chyanne Ellett escaping a bases-loaded, no outs jam in the bottom of the seventh — resulted in a 4-1 victory over Vernon in Game 1 of a Region I-4A softball area playoff series.
Games 2 and 3, if needed, of the series will be back in Boyd beginning at 5 p.m. Friday.
Tied at 1 at the end of regulation, Brownwood's (24-2-2) top of the eighth inning began with Annie-Klein Allgood being plunked by a pitch from Vernon's (16-7-1) Shay Williams, who struck out 15 and did not issue a walk.
Maddie Yazell followed with a bunt and reached on a throwing error by the third baseman, which moved the runners to second and third base with no outs.
Aubrie Harris then successfully bunted past Williams in the circle into no man's land near a vacated second base, which allowed both Allgood and Yazell to score to give Brownwood its first lead, 3-1, and Harris to turn the hit into a double.
Annie Gillispie then ripped an RBI double to left field, which plated Harris with the Lady Lions' final run.
The game almost didn't reach extra inning as, in the bottom of the seventh, Vernon's Caitlin Brints reached on an error to start the frame, Williams singled to right field and Addison Spencer reached on a bunt single. Ellett struck out Lauren Hager for the first out, then Caroline Taylor grounded back to Ellett, who threw home to Gillispie for the second out. Gillispie then fired to first base, where Taylor collided with Allgood. Taylor was called for offensive interference, resulting in an inning-ending double play.
Ellett, who improved to 20-2 in the circle, gave up one earned run on seven hits with 11 strikeouts and three walks. For the season, Ellett stands at 384 strikeouts and 47 walks, while her career strikeout number climbed to 1,219.
The Lady Lions gave up Vernon's lone run in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Avery Kinney drew a leadoff walk, Makyleigh Leija reached on a one-out single to center field and Emily Boyd followed with a bunt base hit. The second walk of the inning by Ellett, to Brints, resulted in a 1-0 Vernon lead. Ellett then fanned Williams and retired Spencer on a ground out to avoid further damage.
Brownwood pulled even with two outs in the top of the sixth as Ashlynn Patteson launched a solo home run over the right field fence — one of only four hits in the game for the Lady Lions, and Patteson's first long ball of the season. Gillispie, Harris and Auzzlyn Benedict provided the other hits for the Lady Lions.
The series winner will advance to face either No. 10 Decatur or Graham in the regional quarterfinals.