Panthers win in district opener

By Joseph Garcia

Liberty Hill pitcher Jake Ramirez winds up on the mound in Friday’s win over Taylor. Ramirez gave up just two runs on one hit in six innings pitched. (www.ThunderstruckPhotos.com)

Hits were scarce in Friday night’s district opener between Liberty Hill and Taylor, but hit batsmen were not.

Each team combined for only six hits (LH-4, Taylor-2) Friday, but the Panthers capitalized on theirs for a 6-2 victory at home, capturing the district opener.

After defeating Llano 14-1 on Tuesday, March 27, Liberty Hill improved to 2-0 in district on the season.

Batters on both sides seemingly struggled at the plate, but there may have been reason to since seven players were hit by pitches, beginning with the first pitch of the night from Liberty Hill’s Jake Ramirez, who drilled Taylor shortstop Eric Aldarete in the back.

“Fortunately for us, our kids did a great job at the plate just fouling pitches off, finding ways to get on base, hitting the ball hard and taking balls off their bodies,” said Liberty Hill Coach Mike Kristan after the win. “We played pretty good defense, too. I think we made only one error and it was in the last inning. It was a good baseball game.”

The Panthers had to come from behind Friday to get the win. But exceptional pitching by Ramirez and the fact that Liberty Hill has played close games all year helped.

Taylor’s Brandon Martinez gave the Ducks the lead on a two-out RBI single in the third. But Ramirez

battled back, stranding two Ducks on base.

The next inning (fourth), Liberty Hill took the lead after Jacob Olvera walked and stole second. The next batter, Kolby Keith, singled Olvera home to tie the game 1-1. Liberty Hill then took a 2-1 lead when Keith scored on T.J. Hilman’s sacrifice fly.

The Ducks, however, were not done as they tied the game 2-2 in the top of the sixth after the inning began with a hit-by-pitch. A sacrifice bunt, a passed ball and a wild pitch later, Taylor scored the tying run.

Liberty Hill stormed back in its half of the inning, using three walks, two hit-by-pitches and two singles to score four runs, taking a 6-2 lead.

Shane Terry’s sacrifice fly scored Hilman, giving the Panthers a 3-2 lead. Kyle Marshall then hit an RBI single to center, scoring Jacob Simons for a 4-2 advantage. Following back-to-back walks and hit batters, Liberty Hill scored its final two runs for a 6-2 margin.

Tyler Barrows came in to relieve Ramirez in the seventh inning. Ramirez (4-0) allowed just two runs on one hit and struck out five in six innings of work.

With this game serving as perhaps a taste of things to come, it does not take long for Kristan to summarize District 25-3A in 2012. The answer is simple, yet complex.

“I can (summarize) pretty quick,” he said. “It’s going to be tough. Every team is going to be good. Every game is going to be competitive; every team is going to be in every game. We were happy to win. As many wins as you get in this district you are going to separate yourself, but we’ll see what happens.”

Liberty Hill has been competitive in all five of its losses this year, a pattern that Kristan recognizes as a blessing and a curse.

“Every loss we’ve had this year we’ve been in the game,” he said. “So maybe that’s helped us to realize, okay, we are going to be around and it’s going to be close. So, it’s a big plus and maybe those early games helped us. But, let’s hope it’s not like this all year. They are used to it being close and they’re competing. This time we came out on top.”