By Taylor Grafft
The Liberty Hill Lady Panthers Softball team will travel to Georgetown to play in a tournament today through Saturday and the team has been building confidence over the last week as they rack up wins.
Against Caldwell on Tuesday night, the Lady Panthers won a tight game, 7-6. They relied on clutch hitting from Lynsey Mitchell and Nicole Theim’s pitching to close out the game in the seventh inning.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, the Panthers found themselves tied 4-4 with Caldwell. Payton Walker stepped up to the plate with two outs and was hit by the Caldwell pitcher on the first pitch. Sam Junkin reached on an error by the Caldwell catcher in the Panthers’ next at-bat. Alyson Sulak smashed a base-hit to left to bring home Walker for the go-ahead run.
Caldwell tied the game in the fifth inning after an RBI-double, but the Lady Panthers responded in the bottom half of the inning. Mitchell stepped up to the plate with two runners on and hit a clutch two-run double to give Liberty Hill a 7-5 lead.
Caldwell was able to get one run back in the top of the sixth inning, but stellar defense and some solid pitching by Theim allowed the Lady Panthers to hold on and get the win.
The Lady Panthers are now 8-3 overall heading into the Georgetown tournament, and will face three tough opponents (Austin High, Pflugerville and Georgetown) as they close out their non-district schedule before spring break.
“Expectations are high and we expect this team to compete in every game,” said Coach Charice Hankins. “Our girls are competing hard for our starting nine hitting spots and it has been exciting to watch them battle at the plate. Sam (Junkin) and Nicole (Theim) are doing great on the mound. They both are working hard and keeping us in each and every game. Payton (Walker) is being a great leader behind the plate and is keeping our players pumped up and focused on our team ‘fire.’”
The Lady Panthers also played in the Round Rock Invitational Tournament last week and racked up four wins and only one loss. The team scored 23 runs in the tournament and allowed only seven runs.
In their game against Belton, the Lady Panthers won 10-1 and garnered 13 hits to Belton’s three. Sam Junkin got the win, while also helping herself out on offense by knocking in a run on two singles. Walker and Lynnette Clarke also knocked a run in for the Panthers and Sulak knocked in two.
In their second game against Leander, the Panthers won a much more closely contested 2-1 game. Theim got the win for Liberty Hill and the offense garnered seven hits from solid performances by Mitchell, Walker, Joely Williamson, Sulak and Clarke.
The Panthers lost their next game against Round Rock 2-1. Round Rock was able to get six hits off pitcher Junkin. The Panthers struggled to turn their five hits into productive outs or runs in the game, despite a single, double, and RBI by Junkin on offense.
In their final two games of the tournament, Liberty Hill beat Harlingen South 6-3. In that game the Panthers got five hits and pitcher Theim only allowed one hit during the game to pick up her fourth win.
In the Lady Panthers’ last game against Round Rock, Theim and Junkin combined to shut out the hosts of the tournament. Junkin pitched four innings to hold Round Rock scoreless, and Theim came in to finish the job and help Liberty Hill to a 4-0 win. On offense, Mitchell, Walker, Baylie Bevers, Clarke, and Aubrey Covington all recorded RBIs for the Panthers.