Brownwood extends win streak to seven games

In a game that featured 13 walks, five hit batters, more than 240 pitches thrown and a five-run lead squandered, the Brownwood Lions managed to prevail over the Big Spring Steers, 8-5, in Friday’s District 5-4A baseball opener at Morris Southall Field.

The victory was the seventh in a row for the Lions (10-6, 1-0), who tallied the final three runs of the game after witnessing Big Spring (11-10, 1-1) crawl out of a 5-0 hole.

“I thought the kids played well,” said Lions first-year head coach Blandon Hancock. “We came out and scored some runs and we’ve been doing that all year. We scored in every inning which is one thing we try and preach. We struggled a little bit with our pitching but we worked through it. I’m proud of the way the kids came out.”

Tied at 5 heading to the bottom of the fourth inning, the Lions regained the lead for good. Harley Price started the frame with a line drive single to center field and moved to second when Grayson Swanzy was plunked. With one out, Cain Kittrell delivered an RBI single to left field that scored Price from second with the decisive run.

The Lions added an insurance run in the fifth as Hayden Donahoo, Gavon Clemons and Hunter Leonard walked in succession to start the frame. With the sacks full, Donahoo scored on a passed ball during Swanzy’s at-bat to extend the lead to 7-5.

Brownwood tacked on a final run in the sixth.

The Lions — who are averaging 10 runs per game during their win streak — tallied just five hits, but had eight batters reach on base on balls and Big Spring committed three errors as well. Kittrell singled and doubled, Leonard doubled and Price and Donahoo singled.

“We’ve had some guys that haven’t been hitting the whole time through these games,” Hancock said. “There’s been times where the top of the order has struggled and the middle and end picked it up, or the middle struggled and the top and bottom picked it up. I’m just super proud of the way they’ve bought into our philosophy of hitting. We’re scoring lots of runs and it’s a joy to watch.”

On the mound, Donahoo got the win in relief, pitching three scoreless innings with one hit and one walk. Donahoo also fanned one. Rylan Reagan got the start and pitched three shutout innings, but walked three batters in the fourth. Reagan gave up two runs on two hits with three strikeouts before departing. Caleb Hernandez recorded all three outs in the third inning, yielded two runs — due to an error — on one hit with one walk before the frame ended.

“The big thing to worry about with the new pitch count rules is when to go get guys,” Hancock said. “You can’t leave them out there anymore and let them work through it. If he’s struggling you have to get him out of there and give someone else a chance.

“I knew I could count on Hayden and I knew I could count on Caleb. I put Caleb in during pressure situations because he seems to find a way out every time. Rylan was struggling a little bit at the time so I brought Caleb in and he did what he was supposed to. When I brought Hayden on he did a good job, too.”

Brownwood grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first inning as Kittrell led off with a double, advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on an RBI ground out by Blaine Hughes.

The Lions extended the advantage to 3-0 in the second as Donahoo reached on an error, then Clemons was hit by a pitch. With one out, Leonard doubled home Donahoo, then an RBI ground out by Swanzy plated Clemons.

Brownwood’s lead peaked at 5-0 in the third as Donahoo singled home Grant Fanara, who reached on an error, and Clemons’ RBI sacrifice fly brought home Caydon Vara, running for Reagan, who was hit by a pitch.

The Lions are off until 7 p.m. Friday when they visit Snyder (9-9, 0-2) — a 10-9 loser against Sweetwater Friday night.