Lady Panthers fall short in softball season opener

Courtney Weems slides and touches the plate after a Paige Lafferty double in the fifth inning Tuesday night. (www.ThunderstruckPhotos.com)

By Joseph Garcia

Facing what will be next year’s district opponent in Gatesville, the Liberty Hill Lady Panthers opened their softball season at home on a breezy Valentine’s night.

While the wind blew Liberty Hill’s way early, the visiting Hornets fluttered in the final inning to rally from behind for a 7-6 win on the early season.

“We played well,” said Liberty Hill Coach Charice Hankins. “But it’s still a loss.”

The Lady Panthers made contact all night as no strike outs were recorded for the Liberty Hill bats. But too many runners were left on base, said Hankins.

“We had a couple of opportunities to score with runners on base,” she said. “I don’t know how many we left on, but I would venture to say at least six. So we just missed some opportunities.

“They also have speeding the outfield. There were two or three balls out there that nobody else could have gotten. The only way you can beat speed is if you have more hits and we didn’t.”

Liberty Hill pitcher Sam Junkin pitched solid and fielded well early on.

In the first inning, she caught a line drive and threw the runner out at first for a double play. Then she struck out the final batter to end the inning.

She then struck out the side in the top of the second inning; meanwhile the Lady Panthers’ first run came in the bottom half when Kallen Floyd scored on a passed ball.

Liberty Hill scored two more runs in the third when Kyli Herman and Kendyl Yandrisovite came in off a triple crushed by Floyd. The runs gave Liberty Hill a 3-0-advantage heading into the fourth inning.

Junkin pitched two more scoreless innings before Gatesville put runs on the board.

In the fifth inning, Gatesville used bunt after bunt as well as ground singles, filling up the base pads and sending runners home as part of a four-run inning, giving the Lady Hornets a 4-3 lead.

“She pitched well,” Hankins said. “She had nine strikeouts, it’s just that the walks were bad timing. In the fifth they just had a bunch of bunts and played small ball big time.”

The Lady Panthers were not done yet, scoring three runs in their half of the fifth inning after an RBI single by Courtney Weems and a bases-clearing double by Paige Lafferty.

Leading 6-4, the Lady Panthers could not get the final outs necessary, putting runners on base via three singles, a double and two walks.

“That’s all it was,” Hankins explained. “We faced too many batters in the fifth and seventh innings. Their number one batter got to see her five times.”

Down 7-6, Liberty Hill was not able to overcome a three-run seventh inning by Gatesville, moving to 0-1 on the season.

The season is very young, but Hankins is already thinking about next year’s district competition with Gatesville (1-0).

“It will be interesting next year when they are in our district,” Hankins said.

Up next for the Liberty Hill softball team is a date with Hays when the Lady Rebels come to town Friday, Feb. 17. The first pitch for varsity is scheduled for 7 p.m.