Panthers win again, remain in first

Liberty Hill’s Jadon Durity takes off from third base to tie game 4-4 in the fifth inning versus Taylor Tuesday. (www.ThunderstruckPhotos.com)

By Joseph Garcia

TAYLOR – Walks, base stealing, bunts and sacrifices are all part of the game of baseball. If you do those things, good things usually seem to happen.

That’s what Liberty Hill baseball Coach Mike Kristan’s team is doing and doing well.

“We just compete,” said Kristan. “We find ways (to win).”

The Panthers won most of their district games by doing the small things well and they did it again with a 5-4 win over Salado last Thursday, April 5, and a 7-4 victory at Taylor Tuesday, April 10.

Liberty Hill dominated most of the game against the Eagles. But the Panthers had a late scare after Salado tied it up 4-4 in the sixth inning.

However, the Panther scored what turned out to be the game-winning run in their half of the sixth after T.J. Hilman led off with a single. He then stole second base and scored on a double in the leftfield gap by Shane Terry.

When Liberty Hill traveled to Taylor to take on the Ducks, they were consistent, scoring at least one run in five of the seven innings.

The sixth district game was highlighted by a towering homerun, blasted over the left-centerfield fence by Bryce Dallmeyer on a full count with two outs in the top of the seventh inning.

Dallmeyer said he became angry once a couple of questionable pitches were called strikes after working a 3-0 count. That’s when the cleanup hitter honed his emotions with his skills.

“He called a strike so I was just like, alright; now I’m really mad…. I’m going to swing at the next pitch no matter what,” Dallmeyer said. He threw it and I just turned on it and there it went. I hit it right on the sweet spot. As soon as I finished my swing and looked up at the ball I knew it was gone. I knew the feeling as soon as it came off my bat.”

The solo shot was the second of the season for Dallmeyer.

Coach Kristan said his team is buying in to what he’s selling and mentioned a few stats to his team before Tuesday’s road win.

“I told them we average nine runs a game in district, with only (an average) of six hits,” he said. “But we average 10 walk or hit batters and a sacrifice a game. They are playing well and competing”

Against Salado, Liberty Hill produced five runs on eight hits and versus Taylor seven runs on only four hits.

As a team the Panthers are batting .272 in district play, but boast an on base percentage of .440. These numbers are seemingly indicative of the resilient, resourceful Panther team.

Liberty Hill has scored 51 runs in district competition, but centerfielder and speedster Jadon Durity has scored five of the Panthers last 12 runs these last two games as he has seen more playing time.

“We know he has that ability to ignite and do different things,” Kristan said of Durity. “That’s why he’s our courtesy runner. We know we can get him into the game in three or four situations.”

While the offensive numbers are good enough to win, Liberty Hill’s pitching staff is the team’s bread and butter, Kristan said.

“When I was talking to the kids in (class) today, I said the most consistent thing is our pitching,” he said. “In six games we’ve had three guys pitch. So, the consistency on the mound (also) makes us good.”

In six district games, the trio of Matt Parks, Jake Ramirez and Tyler Barrows have given up less than 20 runs (19) and have maintained an ERA of just 1.57. They also combine for 59 strikeout with Parks leading, having notched 29.

Ramirez and Parks pitched for Kristan last year, giving the starting pitching duo beneficial experience, Kristan said.

“Between Jake and Matt and Tyler coming in, nothing seems to rattle them too bad,” Kristan said. “If we didn’t have good pitching, we might be a .500 team.”

Well, Kristan’s Panthers are doing better than that as they sit atop the District 25-3A standings at 6-0 (14-5-1 overall).

They will face Llano on Friday, April 13, at 7 p.m. in Liberty Hill. But don’t ask Coach Kristan to look beyond the Yellowjackets.

“We just take it one at a time,” Kristan said. “Our goal is to just win the next one.”