Lions’ season ends with 3-0 loss to Decatur


STEPHENVILLE – An uncharacteristic performance at the most inopportune time, both offensively and defensively, resulted in the 2024 baseball season ending for the Brownwood Lions, who dropped Game 2 of their Region I-4A area playoff series to the Decatur Eagles, 3-0, here Friday night.

In a game that featured three lightning delays that totaled 2 hours and 59 minutes, compared to 1 hour and 46 minutes of on-field action, the Lions (24-8-1) committed four errors, which led to three unearned runs, and mustered just one hit off a trio of Decatur (24-9) pitchers.

“At the end of the day the only ones that are truly happy are the ones that win their last game,” said Lions head coach Blake Sandford. “Anything less than that you’re sad, disappointed, whatever it may be. Then you go backwards from that and you think about all the positives. We’ll remember all the positives from this season, instead of the negatives that we had here.”

The Lions were recipients of a one-hitter from Yovani Figueroa, who pitched 5.1 innings of no-hit ball, which included a 2 hour and 20 minute break between taking the mound in the bottom of the fifth inning and the bottom of the sixth. Figueroa struck out four while Noah Gonzalez recorded the final two outs with one strikeout. But four walks, to go along with the four Brownwood errors, proved too much to overcome on a cold night offensively.

At the plate, Brownwood mustered only a single from Gavin Brandstetter with one out in the top of the fourth inning. The Lions struck out six times against the Decatur combo of Raymondo Contreras, Blaze Grider and Zach Blum, while drawing no walks and the Eagle defense committed just one error.

The Lions, who averaged 4.3 runs per game for the season, were limited to 2 runs in the two-game series, and did not score over the final 11 innings.

Scoreless through three innings Friday, Decatur broke the tie in the bottom of the fourth. James Mahoney walked with one out, then Greg McDonnell laid down a sacrifice bunt where an errant throw put base runners on second and third with. Cooper House followed with an RBI sac bunt down the third base line as Austin Wright retired House at first base, but not before Mahoney scored. Meanwhile, McDonnell never slowed down from second base as he rounded third, broke for home, and beat the throw from second baseman Austin Pittman, who was covering the first base bag, to home plate.

Decatur’s lead stood at 2-0 until the bottom of the sixth as McDonnell reached when a pop up was dropped down the third base line for the first of two Brownwood errors in the frame. House followed with a flare to left field to break up Figueroa’s no-hitter and put two on with one out. Brody Kelley then drew a walk to load the bases with one out, where Gonzalez came on in relief of Figueroa.

Gonzalez retired Jaden Hensley by strikeout for the second out, then Liam Clounch grounded up the middle for what appeared to be the final out of the inning, but the Lions could not field the ball cleanly, which allowed McDonnell to add an insurance run.

In their final trip to the plate in the top of the seventh inning, the Lions struck out in order as for the second time this school year, a Brownwood sports team had its season ended by Decatur. The Lions football team was also upended by the Eagles in the  state quarterfinal round of the playoffs.

Friday’s game concluded the careers of Brownwood seniors Brandstetter, Figueroa, Eli Hill, Caleb Nix, Ike Hall, David Turner, Jordyn Nickerson, Logan Posey, and Xavier Zepeda.

“Collectively as a group they’re a really good bunch of kids and they did a whole lot of stuff before I ever got here, they’d been through some battles before,” Sandford said. “It was relatively easy to put my own spin on what we wanted to accomplish because they bought in. Obviously they’re disappointed with how things turned out this series, but they did a good job of being locked in and focused on doing whatever we tried to do to get to a higher level.”