After a month-long hiatus due to injury, Liberty Hill senior outfielder Spencer Pennington has returned to action.
On Tuesday night in his final home game as a Panther, with the score tied 6-6 against Lampasas, Pennington stepped up to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded. The patent senior drew a walk after a nice at-bat and recorded the go-ahead RBI, giving the Panthers a 7-6 lead.
Liberty Hill would go on to win 11-6, but that at-bat was crucial to the Panthers securing the District 8-3A title.
Pennington’s first game back was last Friday against Burnet when he started in left field. He injured his left elbow and wrist about a month ago in an accident at home. He was in a cast for about a week as the doctor’s diagnosis was a broken bone. However, that was not the case.
“After I got x-rayed again it came back negative,” Pennington said. “So I was only out for another three weeks.”
Pennington comes back just in time for the Panthers’ final stretch of district games before the playoffs begin. But the postseason was not always in the cards for Pennington and the Panthers.
The Killeen native attributes the team’s resilient mental toughness and recent success following a 0-9 start to Coach Mike Kristan.
“I give a lot of credit to Coach (Kristan) for not being worried,” Pennington said. “He kept telling us he believed in us and that (the start) was nothing, which helped us keep our heads up and pull through. We work really hard every day and we (do so) as a team.”
Pennington, who also enjoys playing golf and hanging out with friends, loves to play baseball because it is a thinking man’s game. He recalls one particular time when his team’s mental toughness was key to a championship win.
“It’s a mental game and that, to me, is more challenging,” he said. “Over the summer on the Liberty Hill summer team we played Elgin in the championship round of our tournament and in the bottom of the seventh we were down by five with two outs and we came back to win.”
As one of five seniors on the team, Pennington sees himself as one of the leaders. The 18-year-old leads by showing others if you play your role, it benefits the team.
He and the other seniors let the younger players know that if you just listen to the coaches, do what you are told, yourself and the team will be better for it.
“I lead by example and this whole senior class I would say leads by example,” Pennington said. “We just all go out there and do what needs to be done and we never take no for an answer. This team has amazing talent.”
Pennington, whose favorite subject in school is math, plans on attending Austin Community College following graduation. He will be studying to become a paralegal or a radiologist.
While Pennington was sidelined, he made sure to remain upbeat for his team. Along with his teammates, Coach Kristan has enjoyed Pennington’s presence on the team.
“(Pennington) works hard on his outfield play and is extremely positive with his teammates,” Kristan said. “He cheers for everyone. (He) got injured and has not played as much, but he is still working hard and is very positive.”
The final home game is in the books for Pennington and the Panthers, but with an 8-0 district record, a championship and a first-round bye, the Panthers have surprised some of the “experts,” according to Pennington.
Not only that, but the senior leader predicts for his team to be sticking around for longer than those “experts” might think.
And with the Panthers winning 18 of their last 19 games, who could argue?
“Not very many people in the community believed in us (at the beginning), but that fueled our fire,” he said. “We were picked to come in third behind Brownwood and Burnet in the district and we have beaten them both twice. That is a statement saying that we can do what others think we are not capable of. I can see a deep playoff run for us just because we love to prove people wrong.”