By Joseph Garcia
GEORGETOWN — Loaded with talent and energy, the Lady Panthers in the past three weeks have played 15 games that included a championship title at the Georgetown Tournament Feb. 28-March 1.
Following the conclusion of tournament play for Liberty Hill, the No. 6 ranked Lady Panthers headed into the week with a 16-2 record. With an 11-1 victory over Rockdale on Tuesday, Liberty Hill improved to 17-2 for the season.
“(It’s been) crazy busy the last three weeks of tournament ball,” said Liberty Hill Coach Charice Hankins. “Our kids were a little worn out after our game vs. Austin High Friday night. That was the 14th game in a three-week period – including our tournament games – winning helped with getting through the weeks, and the kids mustered up the energy game in and game out. I was very proud of the way they played.”
En route to the championship in Georgetown, the Lady Panthers blanked St. Dominique’s 11-0 with Nicole Theim earning the win. Then defeated Hendrickson 6-4 (Sam Junkin pitched the win), beat Harker Heights 10-0 powered by a Kallen Floyd home run, with Junkin pitching a shutout win, landing them in the defacto finals vs. host Georgetown.
Liberty Hill defeated Georgetown 7-3 (Junkin pitched a complete game for the win) and jumped on the Eagles early, sparked by a Lynsey Mitchell home run.
Once their work was done in Georgetown on Friday afternoon, the Lady Panthers traveled south to take on Austin High in Austin. Liberty Hill defeated the Maroons 10-3 (Junkin earned the win, pitched 6 innings, and Nicole Theim pitched the 7th inning) to cap off five wins in five games for the Lady Panthers.
“To tell you the truth, I was hoping it was (just) going to be a good game,” Hankins admitted of the “big” win over 4A Georgetown. “We hit their No. 1 pitcher really good and I think she was surprised.”
In 19 games played as of Tuesday, March 5, the Lady Panthers have recorded some gaudy offensive numbers as a team, including 200 hits, seven home runs, 10 triples, 37 doubles and 143 singles. Liberty Hill has also knocked in 149 RBI and has scored 164 runs while holding a team batting average of .338.
Liberty Hill pitchers have only given up 50 runs, giving the team a plus-114 advantage for the season.
Defense and Liberty Hill’s pitchers have seemingly been working hard to maintain their focus and their roles in contributing to each game’s success. The Lady Panthers’ offense has helped out their hurler inside the circle buy giving her run support to alleviate some stress.
“I think we are getting better every game,” Hankins said. “Each kid is gaining confidence and experience in some realm of our game. We need them all to feel good about their role on the team and our team is doing a great job of supporting each other. We are seeing and hitting the ball pretty well and seem to be learning to move runners into scoring position and getting them in.”
Coach Hankins said the team’s approach has been game to game, inning to inning, and the ability to let go of mistakes gives them a chance to win each matchup. Her long-term plan for the season is to grow in strength with each step of the season.
That next step will be district play.
After the Lady Panthers take on Marble Falls at 6:45 p.m. Friday, March 8, District 8-3A competition gets underway with Llano in Llano on Friday, March 15 at 2:45 p.m.
Hankins will make sure her team maintains their edge after Spring Break.
“We know that every team that we play is capable of beating us, and we can’t let any area of our game relax,” she said. “We are working hard to play the game with the respect it deserves, and take nothing for granted. Our plan…is to keep the journey going.”