By Joseph Garcia
The wind could have blown either team’s way on Tuesday night.
Gusts over 20 mph were blowing out to left-center field, which seemingly had an impact on the outcome of the game of evenly matched opponents. However, the winds blew St. Andrews’ way in the final inning as the Crusaders crept past the Panthers for a 5-3 win.
The Panthers produced three runs on seven hits to the Crusaders’ five and seven. However, Liberty Hill (7-3-1) committed five errors and left eight runners stranded on the night while St. Andrews (4-5) just tabbed two and left seven.
“We hit the ball hard, right at them and when we got on base we didn’t produce,” said Liberty Hill Coach Mike Kristan. “It’s pretty simple; if you don’t play good defense and don’t knock in the runs when you have the opportunity to you’re not going to win many games.”
After starting pitchers (Kannon Prier for LH and Andrew McInvale for St. Andrews) threw two shutout innings to start the game, the Crusaders would strike first with a three-run third inning.
After Prier struck out the first batter on the third, a single followed by a well-hit double that swirled over the head of left fielder Jadon Durity, set up an RBI hit by McInvale. The pitcher helped himself out and put the Crusaders up 1-0.
St. Andrews then had the bases loaded with two outs when Robert Politz reached first safely on a LH throwing error, allowing two runs to score to give the Crusaders a 3-0 lead.
Liberty Hill answered in the fourth inning scoring its first run of the game on a past ball.
Shane Terry, who singled earlier, scored from third base on a passed ball to cut the lead to 3-1 after four innings of play.
The Panthers grabbed the momentum in the fifth inning after Cody Remore relieved Prier, who finished with three strikeouts with five hits and one walk allowed.
Remore worked himself into a jam with the bases loaded and no outs, but the Liberty Hill reliever got some help from his friends after a double play, followed by a ground out ended the inning.
Liberty Hill then tied the game 3-3 in the bottom half of the fifth.
A leadoff walk by Garett Cunningham started the inning, then Durity reached first on an infield single.
Cunningham then scored on a sacrifice fly by T.J. Hilman before Durity was on the better end of a wind-driven fly ball that went over the head of the St. Andrews center fielder, scoring from second base to tie the game.
Coach Kristan agreed that the wind indeed played a factor.
“Their center fielder missed the ball and that wind probably flipped it around a little bit, we scored a couple (the same way),” he said.
But the Panthers were unable to capitalize the rest of the inning leaving two men on base.
St. Andrews took back the lead in the top on the seventh when a bad hop at shortstop that could have been the third out scored two runs to give the Crusaders a 5-3 advantage they would not give up.
Liberty Hill did have one last opportunity to win when two runners were on with only one out. But as was the story of the game, men were left on base, as the Panthers couldn’t manufacture any more hits.
“We tied it up, we didn’t quit and kept competing and got back in the game with a chance to win with guys on base,” Kristan said. “That’s just kind of the nature of the game. It was just a baseball game that didn’t go our way. It was kind of an evenly matched game…it just happened to be they scored last.”
Next for the Panther varsity baseball team is the Llano Tournament to be played March 8-10.