By Joseph Garcia
AUSTIN – It was a historic run to the UIL State Tournament for the Liberty Hill Lady Panthers. But when they got there, the Henderson Lady Lions edged out Liberty Hill in the State Semifinal, ending the school’s hopes of a softball championship.
Henderson starting pitcher Tiarra Davis, a University of Texas commit, allowed only five hits, but not a single Panther run to score as the Lady Lions advanced to the championship game with a 3-0 win at McCombs field Thursday, May 31.
“She had a great rise ball,” said Liberty Hill Coach Charice Hankins. “She was definitely the best pitcher we’ve seen this year.”
Rain was a threat to fall for early on in the game and the Lady Panthers threatened as well to take an early lead as junior Paige Lafferty started the State Semifinal off with a single hit to short stop she managed to leg out.
Lafferty made it to third base, but as was the theme of the game for Liberty Hill (27-9), was unable to put a run on the board as Davis struck out her opposition, Kourtney Bevers, to end the first inning.
Bevers, however, pitched another solid game for Liberty Hill as she did not allow any runs to score until the fourth inning when Henderson got back-to-back singles from Karly Free and Jessica Thomas, setting up a sac bunt by Jennifer Armstrong to move the runners to second and third.
A well-placed sacrifice RBI bunt by Jenna Toon put the first run on the board for Henderson (30-8), followed by a RBI single to left by Davis for a 2-0 Lady Lions lead.
Liberty Hill had another opportunity to score in the fifth after a Kyli Herman single with one out. And with the speedy Jessica Green in her place advanced to second once Kendyl Yandrisovitz was hit by a pitch and stole third when Henderson pitcher Davis had her back turned.
But once again a runner was stranded at third as freshman Kallen Floyd grounded out to end the top of the fifth.
The Lady Panthers, however, never gave up or in as they continued to apply pressure to Davis when they could. But the bats did not come together at the right time, said Hankins.
“Our offense usually does a better job of giving her some support, but I thought we had a chance,” she said. “I really did think our offense was going to come around.”
The Lady Panthers did go down swinging as Bevers gave hope to the Liberty Hill faithful when she led off the sixth inning with a single to left field. But three consecutive fly outs ended Liberty Hill’s final opportunity to score with a runner on base.
By the time the Liberty Hill offense was coming around, innings were running out on a phenomenal season for the Lady Panthers as they just could not string together enough offense to match Henderson.
Davis closed out the game for the Lady Lions for a complete-game shutout.
“We tried to be patient and make her pitch the ball and when she did we got the bat on the ball,” Hankins explained. “But we just were a little bit anxious. We hit the ball hard a couple of times, but not enough to get it through their defense. She was very effective.”