Brownwood swept in regional quarterfinals by No. 2 team in the nation
GLEN ROSE — The Brownwood Lions baseball season reached its conclusion Friday night in the second game of a Region I-4A quarterfinals series, as the No. 1 Argyle Eagles completed a sweep with an 11-1 victory.
“That's one of the best high school baseball teams I've seen no matter what classification,” said Lions head coach Blandon Hancock, whose team dropped Thursday's opener 21-0. “They're ranked No. 2 in the nation behind IMG Academy who plays on ESPN all the time. One through nine they swing it like our three and four hole do. They've got a good thing going over there and unfortunately we had to run into them in the third round.”
Argyle (35-1-1) — which has lost just once in the past two seasons — recorded eight home runs in 10 innings of action during the series — three grand slams, two three-run bombs, one two-run blast and a pair of solo shots. Three of the Eagles' home runs occurred Friday night against the Brownwood (17-12) pitching combination of Hunter Leonard and Gavon Clemons.
Leonard — who pitched 6.2 innings of no-hit ball in his only other outing on the mound in the postseason — worked 2.2 innings and yielded nine earned runs on four hits with six walks and one strikeout.
Clemons came on in relief and tossed the final 1.2 innings, surrendering two runs — one earned — on a pair of hits with two walks and one strikeout.
In the series, the Lions issued a total of 18 base on balls after giving up just 10 combined in their first four postseason games.
Brownwood, which was held hitless in the series opener, struck first in Game 2 as catcher Cain Kittrell led off the game with a solo shot to left field off Argyle starter Sean Bolin. Center fielder Reece Rodgers added a single in the top of the third, the only other hit of the game and series for the Lions.
Trailing 1-0 after half an inning, Argyle quickly regained the lead with three runs in the bottom of the first. Preston King led off with a single and scored following a throwing error after Dillon Carter laid down a bunt. Brenden Dixon's RBI ground out plated Carter with the go-ahead run, then Chad Ricker belted his third home run of the series — a solo shot that staked Argyle to a 3-1 lead.
The Eagles stretched the advantage to 6-1 in the second as Alex Gonzales drew a lead off walk, King added a two-out free pass and Carter — who was 3-for-3 with three RBI — followed with a three-run homer.
The Lions had a chance to get back in the game in the top of third as Kittrell drew a leadoff walk, Rodgers singled into right field and Clemons was hit by a pitch — all with no outs. But Boling struck out Leonard, then A.J. McCarty hit a ground ball to third base where the throw was successfully made to second base for the second out. Clemons, sliding into second, was then called for runner's interference, which resulted in the third out of the frame and the end of Brownwood's last offensive threat.
“We had the bases loaded, no outs and we couldn't get a run across,” Hancock said. “If we could have opened it up a little bit there that could have given us some momentum. They 1-2-3'ed us and banged us out on a double play that was questionable. It just kind of deflates you. Teams like that like, sometimes when they deflate you they take advantage of that, and they did.”
Brownwood fell into a 10-1 hole in the bottom of the third as Austin King and Bo Hogeboom walked and Cade Merka reached on a fielder's choice to load the sacks in front of Preston King — who finished 2-for-4 with four RBI thanks to his grand slam during the frame.
After a scoreless fourth, Argyle tacked on the final run of the series in the bottom of the fifth as Preston King reached om the last of Brownwood's four errors, then stole second base ahead of Carter's RBI single into right field.
In three games at Glen Rose this season — two against Argyle and one district game versus Glen Rose — the Lions were outscored 46-3.
Friday's game marked the end of the high school careers for Brownwood's Clemons, Leonard, Kittrell, Grayson Swanzy and C.J. Hanley, who will graduate in a matter of days.
“The seniors have been with me since I've been here,” Hancock said. “They've bought into what we've been trying to do as a program. I couldn't be more proud of them and seeing them grow since their sophomore year. I'm sure going to be miss them and being able to rely on them, but we have a good group coming back.”
The Lions finished the year with area and bi-district championships, to go along with their first district title since 2011.
“At the first of the year there were a lot of injuries and kids out because of other events,” Hancock said. “When you have multiple kids in multiple sports those are growing pains you have to go through. The good thing about it is we got some younger guys some experience, we got them the ability to get out there and play early because we're going to have to rely on them a lot next year. Once we got into district a little light flipped on and we ran off six games in a row, put ourselves in a good spot to win a district championship. We dropped the last two, but we were still able to win a district championship because of where we put ourselves early on. The first two playoff series we came out and we were on fire. I'm super proud of the kids even in this series. We hit the ball well, we just hit it right at them.”