By Joseph Garcia
BURNET – After three years without a championship, Liberty Hill baseball Coach Mike Kristan and his resilient team secured the District 25-3A title with a win over rival Burnet in a tight game Friday.
In yet another game dominated by excellent pitching, the Panthers finally broke a 0-0 deadlock in the sixth inning, when Bryce Dallmeyer tagged up and scored on a sacrifice fly hit to deep center by Jacob Olvera.
The Panthers scored two more security runs in the seventh and starting pitcher Jake Ramirez closed out the Bulldogs with a strikeout to end the game, in which Liberty Hill (9-0, 17-5-1) won 3-0.
Coach Kristan let out a sigh of relief after winning the district championship for the first time in three years.
“It feels great,” Kristan acknowledged. “It feels longer than that when you don’t win those games. But, it’s been fun. Our kids deserve it because they practice hard and play hard.”
Liberty Hill’s final two runs came in the seventh when Jacob Simons scored from third base on a passed -ball and Jadon Durity-Boatright one an RBI single by Kolby Keith.
The Panthers used eight hits to get by Burnet, but once again Liberty Hill’s pitching paved the way for the victory.
Ramirez pitched a complete-game shutout while giving up just two hits to the Bulldogs, while striking out seven batters.
Ramirez’s dominant performance comes on the heels of a one-hit, 18 strikeout performance by Matt Parks the week before against Lampasas.
In the past two games, Liberty Hill pitchers have not given up a single run, while allowing just three hits. As a staff in district play, Panther pitchers boast an ERA of just 2.24.
“That’s not bad at all,” Kristan said of his pitcher’s recent performances. “It’s bad for other guys, but not bad for us. It makes you good at this level when you have a couple of good pitchers. You look like a pretty smart coach.”
While the pitching has been stellar, on offense the Panthers scored just four runs in the last two games as they have competed and succeeded in pitching duels.
“When you only score four runs and win two games in the same week that has to do a lot with your pitching,” Kristan said. “So, it’s fun to watch. They’ve fought each other and other teams and we always seem to find a way. As long as it’s close, we’ve got a chance.”
With one more district game to play – Friday, April 27, in Salado – before about two-weeks off, Kristan said he will try to find a delicate balance of work and rest.
The long-time Liberty Hill coach will meet with his staff and discuss strategy for the playoffs, including warm-up games and practice schedules.
“We’ll probably go a little shorter for Monday and Tuesday and maybe do something special on Wednesday,” he said. “Me and Coaches Revere and Hohmann have to sit down and talk a little bit about possible warm-up games already in mind (before the playoffs). I want to keep it pretty normal, but you also don’t want to kill them. You have to find that (right) mixture and we’re excited about it.
“Even after Salado, we’ll have another week off because of the bye. I have practice schedules typed up from years past and Ryan (Revere) and I will talk and figure something out,” he said.