The Brownwood Lions made their first postseason appearance since 2013 in head coach Blandon Hancock’s debut season a year ago. With eight key contributors returning from last year’s 13-12, District 5-4A second-seeded squad, the Lions have even higher aspirations this spring.

“I keep telling them everyday that they control their own destiny,” Hancock said. “Not many 4A high schools have nine guys that can hit. Our lineup doesn’t have any holes in it one through nine. Our pitching has been good so far, so honestly I think they can go as far as they want to. Returning eight guys, and a bunch of key middle of the lineup guys, we have expectations to win a lot of games and go deep in the playoffs.”

The Lions offense will be anchored by Hunter Leonard and Rylan Reagan, who both belted eight home runs last season. And Hancock feels the duo has only scratched the surface.

“Hunter Leonard had a big power year last year and I expect him to have 10 or more home runs this year, same thing with Rylan Reagan. But I’m excited about the whole lineup. We don’t have a kid where we’re really hoping he gets a hit and isn’t just an automatic out. We have nine hitters that can hit anywhere in the lineup.

“We do need to work on scoring more runs with runners in scoring position, but that will come with time and getting games under our belts.”

The most pleasant surprise for the Lions through their scrimmages has been the performances of the pitching staff. Early on, Reagan, Caleb Hernandez, Hayden Donahoo, Mason Ryden, Jakob Dorsett, A.J. McCarty, Grayson Swanzy and Gavon Clemons will all have opportunities to demonstrate their worth on the mound.

“Our pitching has been really good through the scrimmages,” Hancock said. “No one has really hit us well, but there’s a few that have walked some batters. We haven’t had many errors either, but the pitching is what has really stood out so far. We haven’t given up a whole lot of runs, we just have to work on the walks.”

The Lions open their season Thursday at the Iowa Park as Brownwood will face Mineral Wells at 4:45 p.m. followed by Burkburnett at 7 p.m. On Friday, the Lions tangle with Henrietta at 10 a.m. and Wichita Falls at 2:30 p.m. Tournament action wraps up at 10 a.m. Saturday with a battle against Stephenville.

Brownwood will then tangle with Lorena in Lampasas at 6 p.m. Tuesday before hosing Whitney, Breckenridge, Burkburnett and the Ranger College JV for the Bluebonnet Invitational March 1-3.

The Lions also have games lined up against Alvarado, Bangs, Bridgeport and Iowa Park, as well as Killeen High and Lampasas to start the Lampasas tournament.

“What we did last year was throw them in the fire against 5A and 6A competition, but this year we’re facing more teams in our region to see where we are, where we fit in and to help with scouting for the playoffs,” Hancock said. “We have a pretty good chance to win a lot of games in pre-district. If we go out and play how like we know how to play, we shouldn’t have a problem with that.”

As for the District 5-4A race, Hancock said, “Wylie lost their ace pitcher, he got hurt in football so he won’t pitch this year. He’ll still play in the field, but that’s a big loss for them. Sweetwater and Snyder lost a lot of seniors, but Big Spring is going to be decent. It’s going to be really competitive, but I can see us making a run at the district championship.”