KELLER — It may not have been the quickest path to the second round — nor the most likely destination following a 12-run loss Thursday night — but the Brownwood Lions defied the odds to capture a Region II-4A bi-district baseball championship Friday.
After being held to just two hits in Game 1 of their best-of-three series with the Waxahachie Indians, the Lions responded with victories of 9-3 and 4-1 to set up an area round showdown with District 13-4A champion Dallas Hillcrest.
“This is a great day for the Brownwood Lions baseball program,” said second-year head coach Scotty Nichols, who guided the team to their first postseason appearance since 1999. “I can’t say enough about the heart this team showed today. A lot of teams would have thrown in the towel after losing the first game 12-0. I’m at a loss for words.”
The Lions (18-11), District 16-4A’s second seed, chalked up 18 hits in Friday’s two games, while limiting 15-4A third-seed Waxahachie (21-10) to seven. Brownwood pitchers Mason Ellis, Garrett Goodwin and Shelby Miller also teamed up to strand 15 base runners.
Ellis tossed a complete game three-hitter in the opener, while Goodwin worked 6.1 innings and Miller recorded the final two outs to notch the save in the Lions’ four-hit second victory.
“Mason did a great job that first game keeping them off-balance,” Nichols said. “If you throw a lot of fast balls against Waxahachie, you’re going to be in trouble.
“Garrett’s another off-speed pitcher and he struggled early, but he fought through it. Then Shelby came in and finished it out.”
The deciding factor in the series was the first three innings of the Lions” 4-1 Game 3 win. Goodwin — who gave up six runs on four hits in Game 1 of the series — walked four batters, hit another and surrendered a double, yet the Indians failed to score a run.
“You just have to forget about each day,” Goodwin said. “I started off a little slow and couldn’t find the strike zone, but coach told me to just relax and throw like I know how to throw. The defense also did a good job.”
While the Indians botched their opportunities, the Lions made their most of their scoring chance in the bottom of the third.
Jason Maldonado started the rally by reaching on a one-out error. Tanner Vaughn followed with an RBI double down the right field line to give Brownwood a 1-0 lead.
Parker Taylor then singled to center field and Ellis walked to load the bases for Miller, who was 5-for-7 and batted for the cycle with five RBIs in Friday’s two games.
“We weren’t really focused on the game last night, but tonight we were serious and knew we had to come out and get the job done,” Miller said. “I was really focusing on coming out here and keeping this going. I don’t want it to be over. I love the game too much.”
Miller roped an RBI single up the middle to plate Vaughn with the second run, then Chase Holmes followed with a two-run single to center field to cap Brownwood’s four-run inning.
Waxahachie received a solo home run from Boomer Collins to lead off the fifth inning for its only run. Collins also drove in all three of the Indians’ runs in Game 1 with a three-run homer.
The Lions forced the rubber game with their 9-3 victory in Friday’s opener, sparked by Ellis’ three-hitter and 11 hits from the offense.
Miller led the Lions with a 3-for-4 effort that included a three-run home run, a triple, four RBIs and two runs scored. Ellis was 2-for-4 with two runs scored while Jonathan White finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Maldonado and Vaughn each added a hit and an RBI, while Brett Barrow had one hit and scored once.
Miller got the scoring started in the bottom of the first with a two-out RBI triple down the right field line that plated Ellis, who singled for the first hit off Waxahachie starter Marshall Davis.
Davis allowed all nine Brownwood runs and gave up 10 hits in 4.1 innings.
The Lions added three runs in bottom of the third on Miller’s blast to left field. His one-out home run followed Parker Taylor reaching via an error and Ellis’ second base hit.
Leading 4-0, the Lions put the game out of reach with a five-run bottom of the fifth.
Taylor started the frame by reaching on the second of the Indians’ three errors, while Miller followed with a one-out single. Holmes then picked up an RBI with a single up the middle.
White followed with a two-run single to right field prior to Maldonado’s RBI fielder’s choice and Vaughn’s RBI single, which capped the Lions’ scoring.
Ellis finished with two strikeouts and surrendered eight walks, but he stranded seven base runners — including the bases loaded in both the fourth and sixth innings — and did not give up a run until the bottom of the seventh inning.
Collins’ three-run home run, which bounced off the top of the left field fence, accounted for the Indians’ only runs.