The first decade of the “2000s” is about to reach its conclusion, and the final year provided a few firsts, along several familiar accomplishments, on the Brown County sports scene.
Here’s a small snippet of some of the best moments 2009 had to offer:
Brownwood’s Shelby Miller
drafted in first round by
St. Louis Cardinals
Shelby Miller’s pitching dominance throughout his high school baseball career caught the eye of Major League Baseball scouts across the country, who had flocked to Lion baseball games the past two seasons.
On June 9, the right-handed fireballer became the first player drafted straight out of Brownwood High when Miller was selected with the 19th pick overall by the St. Louis Cardinals in the MLB First-Year Player Draft.
On Aug. 17 - the final day draft picks could sign with the team that selected them - Miller inked with the Cardinals and received a $2.875 signing bonus.
“Everybody said it was going to come down to the wire,” Miller said after signing his contract. “It’s a great team, so you can’t really pass up that good of a deal. Especially with the Cardinals, it’s such a special team. We really didn’t have any trouble with each other. I’m just glad we got it all worked out. I’m ready to play.”
Miller, who was named the Gatorade Texas High School Baseball Player of the Year, helped the Lions advance to the regional finals for the second time in program history. En route to also earning District 2-3A MVP and first-team all-state accolades, Miller finished with a 10-2 record, 1.98 ERA, 153 strikeouts, 38 hits, 39 walks and 22 runs allowed in 77 innings. He also batted .430 for the season with a team-high five home runs and 37 RBIs.
Miller tossed six no-hitters in his high school career, including three straight during his junior campaign.
Early Lady Horns reach
UIL Class 2A state
The Early Lady Horns rolled through the competition and ended the Coahoma Bulldogettes’ four-year reign as Region I-2A champions en route to earning their first berth in the UIL Class 2A state softball tournament.
Early, under the direction of head coach Bryan Waller, posted a 33-5 record, swept through District 8-2A and its first four postseason games, and earned the top seed in the state tournament.
The Lady Horns took two of three games over Coahoma, winning the first with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. All-state catcher Tresta Donahoo raced around the bases following a line drive to the wall and survived a collision at the plate for a 1-0 Early victory.
Early then bounced back from a 1-0 loss in Game 2 with a 4-3 victory that again was decided in the final at-bat. Daniela Castillo led off with a double and advanced to third base on a wild pitch. After a walk by Tylene Middleton, who then broke for second, Castillo sprinted toward the plate and beat the throw home for the deciding run.
Donahoo and pitcher Janna Allen earned all-state honors for the Lady Horns, while Early received 11 all-district accolades.
The Lady Horns’ dream of a state championship ended in the state semifinals with a 3-0 loss to Hallettsville. But Early returns eight starters from last season’s team, while former Howard Payne standout Chelsea Densman has taken over the reins of the program. The Lady Horns expect to be back in Austin in the spring where they plan to finish what they started this year.
Bob Shipley named
head football coach
The 12-year run of Steve Freeman as Brownwood Lions head football coach came to an end in December of 2008, and Bob Shipley was announced as his successor on Jan. 29.
Shipley was selected over fellow finalist Glen Jones of Brady for the job.
“Bob Shipley knows about Brownwood football,” said Brownwood ISD superintendent Dr. Reece Blincoe during the announcement of Shipley’s hiring. “He has followed Brownwood football. He has family who lives here, and he has a lot of experiences that connect him with the Brownwood program. In talking with him, we were quite impressed with the amount of knowledge he has about Brownwood.”
Among the previous coaching stops for Shipley were a 54-19 stint at his alma mater Burnet - where he led the Bulldogs to a pair of state championship games in 2002 and 2003 - along with an 18-6 run at Rotan and a 15-7 stay at Class 5A Coppell, his last job before coming to Brownwood.
Shipley now owns a 97-35 career record following his first season at Brownwood. This fall, Shipley led the Lions to their first district championship and 10-win campaign since the 2003 season, along with snapping a two-year playoff drought.
“It’s something I take very seriously when you talk about taking over a program with the rich history of Brownwood,” Shipley said following his introduction as head coach and athletic director. “Football means an awful lot to this community and an awful lot to these kids. That’s certainly something any coach would want to be a part of.”
• Brownwood Lions baseball matches deepest postseason run
The Brownwood Lions celebrated the 25th anniversary of the rebirth of the high school baseball program with just their second appearance in the regional championship round of the playoffs.
Guided by head coach Scotty Nichols, the Lions equaled a feat previously achieved in 1990, where they faced Andrews in the Region I-4A championship. Brownwood and Andrews crossed paths again on June 4 for the Region I-3A title, and the Lions were once more denied a trip to Austin.
That loss didn’t put a damper on what the Lions accomplished, however.
Brownwood, under the direction of head coach Scotty Nichols, overcame a 2-9 start by reeling off 16 consecutive victories to earn District 2-3A and area championships, as well as a No. 9 state ranking.
The Lions’ path to the regional championship game featured playoff wins over West, Seminole and a pair of victories over Lubbock Cooper.
Brownwood lost four members of the regional finalist squad - including all-state selections Shelby Miller and Parker Taylor. Former assistant Jeremy Smith has taken over as head coach as the Lions will attempt to earn a fourth straight trip to the playoffs this spring.
• Brownwood Lions football wins first district title since 2003, advances to third round
The Brownwood Lions, under the guidance of first-year head coach Bob Shipley, became the force in Class 3A football many expected when realignment was announced in February of 2008.
The Lions posted a 10-3 overall record and earned a share of the District 2-3A championship with 3A Division I state finalist Abilene Wylie and 3A Division II state finalist Graham, defeating the Steers, 28-27, on a blocked extra point in the district’s game of the year.
Brownwood was coming off a 3-7 campaign, a second straight season without a playoff berth and one of the worse defensive years in program history.
But the Lions gave up just 18 points and 281 yards of total offense per game, while the offense produced 28 points and 381 total yards per outing. Brownwood also earned 30 all-district selections.
The Lions opened the playoffs with 33-7 thrashing of Dalhart, then erased a 14-point halftime deficit to defeat Seminole, 41-28. Brownwood’s playoff run ended in the third round as four turnovers were the difference in a 24-17 loss to Wimberley.
With the bulk of the 2009 roster being comprised of juniors, the Lions’ chase for their eighth state championship could become a reality in 2010.
• HPU Lady Jackets capture third straight ASC basketball title
Coming off a national championship season in 2008, the Howard Payne Lady Jackets overcame some early season struggles to claim their third consecutive American Southwest Conference women’s basketball championship in dramatic fashion.
In all three of their ASC championship tournament games the Lady Jackets either won or forced overtime in the closing seconds.
With six seconds left in the tournament opener against Mississippi College, Hope Hohertz drove the length of the floor and dished a passed to Sarah Jockers, who scored just ahead of the final buzzer. HPU trailed 62-56 with 1:32 left, but tallied the final seven points for a 63-62 win.
The Lady Jackets’ second win saw HPU rally from a 10-point deficit for a 53-51 win over tournament host McMurry. Hohertz scored on an assist from Brittany Zamora with four seconds left to earn the victory.
In the ASC championship game, Jockers sank two free throws with nine seconds left to pull HPU even with Hardin-Simmons at 60-all, where the score remained at the end of regulation. The Lady Jackets then outscored the Cowgirls by seven points in the extra session for a 72-65 victory and the program’s fourth ASC title in five years.
Hohertz was named tournament MVP, while Elaine Hobbs and Katy Sarem were selected to the all-tournament team.
The Lady Jackets (23-6) dropped their NCAA tournament opener, 65-52 to Transylvania in St. Louis on March 6, which ended their bid at a national championship repeat.
• Brownwood Lady Lions soccer team makes first postseason appearance
In only its third season of competition, the Brownwood Lady Lions soccer team not only earned its first trip to the postseason, but won its playoff debut.
The Lady Lions (10-14), under the leadership of head coach Brian Davis, defeated Canyon, 4-3 in a shootout, on March 23 at Midland’s Grande Communications Stadium.
Brownwood fell behind 3-1 with 21:28 left, but 26 seconds later Aranda Salazar brought the Lady Lions within a goal at 3-2. With 58 seconds left, Rae Lee Taylor scored off a corner kick from Emily Moore to force overtime.
After a scoreless overtime and two extra kicks in the usual five-kick shootout, LeeAnn Thomas scored the decisive goal, while Melissa Camp deflected Canyon’s last gasp to secure the win.
The Lady Lions had lost their other two shootouts during the season.
“When we were down 3-1 it would have been very easy for this team to fold,” Davis said after the game. “Then with a minute left on the clock, we stick in a corner kick to keep our chances alive. That was nothing but pure adrenaline and pure heart.”
Brownwood’s season ended in the second round of the playoffs as it fell to Stephenville for the third time.
• Brownwood Lions earn first basketball playoff victory since 1992
The Brownwood Lions basketball team reached postseason play for the first time since 2006 and earned its first playoff win since 1992 when it downed Lubbock Cooper, 48-46, on Feb. 24 in Trent.
Behind a cast that included 10 seniors, the Lions - in the final season of head coach Shane Perkins’ 11-year tenure - posted a 27-6 record, claimed a bi-district title and finished second in District 2-3A.
“To be honest I knew it in the back of my mind having looked up at the playoff years on the wall in the gym, but we had never talked to the kids about it,” Perkins said following the playoff win. “We’d been able to get in a few times, but it was just getting through the door. It was good for the kids to taste winning a playoff game. You have to win one to win two. It’s just another step that we’re taking.”
No. 10 Brownfield knocked off the Lions, 73-59, in the second round of the playoffs.
Perkins has since departed for Class A Farwell, while former Lion and Howard Payne head coach Charles Pattillo is back in charge of the program this season.
• Brown County represented in five events at UIL state track meet
The Bangs Lady Dragons competed in four events, while Brownwood Lady Lion Jalisa Hall participated in the Class 3A discus at the UIL state track and field meet the weekend of June 5-6.
Bangs’ Drea Evers’ fourth-place effort of 17-5.25 in the long jump highlighted the Brown County contingent’s performance. Evers also added a sixth-place leap of 36-2 in the triple jump.
Also competing for Bangs was Chelsy Lipsey in the 800 meters, where she finished sixth with a time of 2:23.14, and the Lady Dragon sprint relay team of Evers, Danielle Denbow, Nette Evers and Hillary Evans, which came in eighth with a time of 49.88.
Hall, who won the Region I-3A championship with a throw of 131-10, finished fifth in the state with a distance of 126-2.
“It was pretty fun and I really liked being in this atmosphere,” Hall said after the event.
• Best of the Rest
• The Brownwood Lady Lions softball team and volleyball team each extended their postseason streaks.
The volleyball team (20-17), coming off last year’s state finalist performance, reached the playoffs for the sixth year in a row before falling to eventual state runner-up Monahans in the area round.
The softball team (23-10) also made its sixth straight journey to the postseason, using a five-game win streak to reach the regional quarterfinals, where it fell to Seminole.
• The Early Lady Horns and Bangs Lady Dragons each advanced to postseason play in basketball. Early finished second in District 8-2A, while Bangs came in third place. Both teams bowed out in the first round of the playoffs.
• The Bangs Dragons also made the postseason in basketball, but also suffered a first-round exit.
• The Howard Payne Lady Jackets softball team set a school record with 29 wins and made its fourth straight ASC championship tournament appearance. But HPU fell to 1-11 in ASC tournament play all-time dropping a 9-0 decision to UT-Tyler and a 4-2 contest to Hardin-Simmons.
• Outside Brown County, the story of the year was the Goldthwaite Eagles Class A Division I state football championship run. The Eagles defeated Canadian, 29-25, at Texas Tech on Dec. 12 to earn the program’s third state championship.
The San Saba Armadillos football team also returned to the postseason for the first time since 2003, and earned their its playoff victory since 1987.