By Joseph Garcia
MARBLE FALLS – It was not exactly the way Liberty Hill Coach Charice Hankins drew it up. But her Lady Panthers came through in the clutch in a tied game, capped with a walk-off single in the bottom of the eighth inning to complete back-to-back come-from-behind playoff wins for Liberty Hill.
With runs coming at a premium against the Fredericksburg Billies on Friday, May 11, at Scearce Field at Marble Falls High School, the game went into extra innings tied at 1-1.
After freshman Samantha Junkin pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the eighth, senior Kourtney Bevers led the bottom half off with a single and moved to second base after a sacrifice fly from Paige Holland.
Then with two outs and Bevers now at third, senior right fielder Bailey Browder stepped up to the plate with the Lady Panthers’ hopes riding on her bat. And as cool as can be, Browder slapped a hard-hit ball between first and second base, off the glove of Fredericksburg’s first baseman, scoring Bevers for a walk-off RBI single that sent Liberty Hill to the Regional Semifinals in a 2-1 win.
Browder said all she wanted to do was make solid contact.
“I just kind of wanted to make contact and get a base hit and not try too hard,” said Browder. “I knew this wasn’t (going to be) our last game. I knew we were going to go on. We finally got the runner where she needed to be. I just had to relax and wait for a good pitch. It’s very exciting.”
The winner-take-all game began with Bevers in the circle for Liberty Hill.
The playoff veteran gave the Lady Panthers a good start after giving up just one run on four hits while striking out eight batters in six innings of work before Junkin relieved her in the seventh.
Fredericksburg’s only run came in the top of the first inning. With two outs, three-straight singles earned a 1-0 lead for the Billies. But Bevers, nursing a sore back, would only give up one more hit the rest of the game.
“Bevers, is going to go as many innings as she can and give us 100 percent and do a great job,” said Hankins. “She took us six innings and Sam came in in the seventh. She was really nervous, but she’s a freshman and did a great job and Bevers did a great job.”
Liberty Hill (9-1, 23-8) tied the game 1-1 in the fifth inning, led by an aggressive Lorrie Potts.
With one out, Potts singled to left field and was called safe at second base on a near-double play off the bat of Kylie Hermann. Then with two outs, leadoff hitter Paige Lafferty ripped a single to left field, scoring plating Potts from second base for the 1-1 tie.
“She scored from second, got a good jump and really did a great job,” Hankins said of Potts’ base running. “(Bevers, Browder and Potts) are our seniors and did what they do.”
The Billies had chances to score in the fifth and sixth innings, but Bevers got out of those situations and recorded her final out of the game by throwing out a runner from her knees after a hard-hit comebacker.
Junkin, who got the win, faced the minimum amount of batters (6) in her two innings of work for her second playoff victory. She held the Billies while the Lady Panthers tried to win in the seventh, before the walk-off hit in the eighth.
Liberty Hill nearly won in the seventh after Potts led off with a single and eventually made it to third. But the Lady Panthers would have to wait for their celebration as Kallen Floyd nearly hit the ball out of the infield for the win.
“I’m glad that we were the home team because we got to let them bat and we held them in the sixth, seventh and eighth (innings),” Hankins said. “We wanted to win it in the seventh. We had an opportunity to win it in the seventh, but couldn’t get the bunt down and didn’t tag up.”
Finally, the eighth inning rolled around and Bevers put herself into scoring position after a single.
“Bevers is so aggressive on the bases, created a tag-up and stole third,” Hankins said. “She had a good jump, a good read on it and that is instinctive.”
Browder then became one of the heroes for Liberty Hill, legging out an infield single to bat in the winning run, wrapping up the regional quarterfinal victory 2-1 for the Lady Panthers.
“She hit the ball hard and sent the ball to the right side,” Hankins said of Browder. “She hit it hard enough to pull the first baseman off (the bag) and beat her there. That was a great effort to hustle down the line and that’s what you have to have and it worked. We didn’t make a mistake and they didn’t make a mistake. It was a really good ball game. That’s probably the best game I’ve seen Fredericksburg play.”
Liberty Hill will now play a best-of-three series against the Sweeny Bulldogs, a Houston-area school, at La Grange High School located at 820 S. Vail Street in LaGrange.
Game 1 is Friday, May 18, at 7 p.m. Game 2 will be Saturday, May 19, at 1 p.m., with Game 3 to follow if necessary.