The Brownwood Lions have saved their best baseball for the postseason as they carry a dominant four-game win streak into this weekend's Region I-4A quarterfinals playoff series with the No. 1 Argyle Eagles.
Game 1 will take place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday with Game 2 at the same time Friday. Game 3, if needed, will begin at noon Saturday. All games will be played at Glen Rose High School.
In 25 innings of postseason action, the Lions (17-10) have given up just three runs — all in the first inning of Game 2 of their area round sweep of Midland Greenwood — and posted three shutouts.
Jakob Dorsett has tossed one-hit and five-hit shutouts in his two postseason starts, Hunter Leonard worked 6.2 no-hit innings in his first start of the season and Gavon Clemons tossed 5.2 shutout innings in relief of Brownwood's most recent victory.
For the season, the Lions own a 3.42 ERA with 138 runs allowed, an average of 5.1 per contest. In the playoffs, that number has been reduced to 0.75 runs per outing. Brownwood has also issued just 10 walks in the postseason, or 2.5 per contest.
“Early on we were trying to figure out our identity with our pitching, trying to find guys for the right spots, basically develop our rotation,” said Lions head coach Blandon Hancock. “Coach (Brandon) Brown has preached to those guys to throw strikes, throw to contact and don't try and strike people out, our defense is good enough to play behind them. Here lately that's what's been going on.
“Once you get to the playoffs the umpires are going to make you throw strikes, they're not going to give you a big zone. You have to throw to contact and let the defense play and our kids have done a good job with that. Going through district that's kind of how we were, we gave up a few runs here and there on some walks and different things like that. In the playoffs we've limited ourselves on walks, and our kids are getting comfortable with the situation.”
On the offensive end, the Lions have generated 42 runs on 51 hits in the last four games. Those numbers are a vast improvement from the impressive 6.4 runs per game averaged during the regular season. For the season, Brownwood is batting .355 as a team with six home runs, 138 RBI and 72 stolen bases in 87 attempts — an 83 percent success rate and an average 2.7 steals per game.
Standouts offensively include Kris Hobbs (.457, 15 RBI, four doubles, one triple), Leonard (.444, 2 HRs, 16 RBI, two home runs, seven doubles, five steals), Cain Kittrell (.443, 18 RBI, eight doubles, four triples, five steals), Reece Rodgers (.420, HR, 12 RBI, two doubles, 26 runs, 14 steals), Grayson Swanzy (.400 5 RBI, one triple, six steals), A.J. McCarty (.385, 4 RBI, one double, 10 steals), Clemons (.377, 2 HRs, 30 RBI, 12 doubles), C.J. Hanley (.355, 15 RBI, four doubles, two triples, nine steals), and Jakob Hataway (.271), 6 RBI, one double).
“It's all about the approach and the kids buying into what we've asked them to do,” Hancock said of the offense. “There through district we had a pretty good run where we ran off six games in a row, seven counting Clyde. We're an aggressive hitting team and in the playoffs umpires are going to make you throw strikes. You're not going to get a call a foot off the outside corner because they know the implications of the game. So we go up there ready to swing.”
Top-ranked Argyle (33-1-1) carries a 20-game win streak into this weekend's series with its only loss being an 11-1 defeat at the hands of Class 6A Southlake Carrol on March 8. The Eagles also tied 5A Corpus Christi Ray, 4-4, in tournament action on Feb. 22.
In the playoffs, the Eagles swept Graham 2-1 and 15-0 in the area round, scoring 13 runs in the first inning of the series finale. In bi-district, Argyle ousted Stephenville, 5-1 and 7-3. Argyle also tallied two district wins over Springtown — the Lions' first-round opponent — by counts of 11-1 and 19-2.
“A lot of a record can be credited to scheduling, but that's not taking anything away from them because obviously they're the defending state champions and won 33 games in a row last year,” Hancock said. “I would compare them to nobody we played this year, but a lot like Wylie was two years ago when Wylie won it. They're not going to make very many mistakes, they're going to make you have to score runs, not give you runs. They're a good, solid high school baseball program and team. We just have to go out and score runs like we have been, play great defense, and give ourselves a shot to upset them.”
The winner of the series will advance to face either Canyon or Pampa in the regional semifinal round.