By Joseph Garcia
Once the rain cleared and the sun made an appearance, District 25-3A softball was finally ready to be played for the Liberty Hill Lady Panthers.
Showers in Central Texas delayed the start of the district play last week, prompting the opener against Salado to be moved to Liberty Hill on Wednesday, March 21, due to the Eagles’ field deemed unplayable.
The Lady Panthers overcame a 2-1 disadvantage to beat Salado 5-2 led by Kendyl Yandrisovitz’s two-run homerun to left-center field in the third inning. She finished 2-for-4 at the plate with two runs scored and two RBI.
Two days later, Liberty Hill (3-0) hosted the Lady Ducks of Taylor and continued its offensive outpour for a 10-0 win in five innings.
On Tuesday, March 27, the Lady Panthers moved to 3-0 in the district (15-6 overall) with a 16-12 win over Llano.
“I thought we played all three areas of the game well,” said Liberty Hill Coach Charice Hankins. “I thought our pitching went well, the defense was great and the offense really came through.”
After two and a half innings without so much as a hit between both teams, the Lady Panthers started to find their bats in the bottom of the third.
Bailey Browder started the inning off with a single and later scored on an RBI single over third base by Paige Lafferty. Next, with two on, Yandrisovitz roped a bases-clearing double to center to give the Lady Panthers a 3-0 lead.
The Lady Panthers produced seven more runs in the fourth inning using seven hits, highlighted by one big swing.
With the bases loaded and only one out, freshman Kallen Floyd stepped up to the plate and roped a line-drive, grand slam homerun over the wall in straight away center field.
“I was hoping she would get a hold of one,” Hankins said. “She hit a homerun in practice and I gave her a hard time saying ‘why don’t you start hitting like that in a game’, but she did good. I am proud of her.”
When all was said and done, Liberty Hill batted around with four singles and three extra-base hits for seven runs, putting the Lady Panthers up 10-0.
After the game, Coach Hankins reflected on Floyd’s big hit, her personality and the impact she makes on the team.
“She works really hard and wants to win so bad,” Hankins said. “In her mind she’s been struggling at the plate going one-for-three these last few games flying out and popping up. But tonight I thought she did real well. She went one-for-three but the grand slam was awesome; she ripped it. I am really proud of her. She just works hard and is all about softball. She eats and bleeds softball; she loves it. I am glad it paid off tonight.”
Starting pitcher Kourtney Bevers continued to work her way back into form from the basketball season, giving up only one hit and no runs in four innings. Sam Junkin came on in relief in the fifth, closing out the game for Liberty Hill.
The 1-2 punch of Junkin and Bevers is a combination Hankins thinks is formidable.
“We are going to try to use the combo with Junkin, who is a different pitcher, and Bevers,” she said. “I think they complement each other very well.”
One in, one out
The Lady Panthers’ leader behind the plate, Kyli Herman, will be out for three to four weeks due to a slight fracture in her toe. Calling and catching pitches in her place is senior Payton Walker
“She went out during spring break and I’m hoping to have her back before the first round (of district games) is over,” Hankins said.
But with one Panther temporarily sidelined, another stepped in the dugout on Friday for the first time this season.
Basketball and track star Jessica Green was used as a courtesy runner once during the win over Taylor. She scored one run in the 10-0 victory. Hankins is certainly glad to have the speedster’s services when available.
“She’s always played softball for us,” Hankins said. “But last year we decided that track needed to be her focus. She’ll be a backup outfielder and is kind of a slapper. Last year she was just kind of a designated runner for us and that’s what she wants to do this year.”