By Taylor Grafft
The Liberty Hill Lady Panthers Softball team and Coach Charice Hankins are starting off their district schedule right where they left off last season. Perfect. Now the Lady Panthers are focusing their attention on the Burnet Lady Bulldogs as they host their rivals on Friday, March 21 in their third district game.
The Lady Panthers are 15-5 this season overall
Against Brownwood (1-1 District) on Tuesday night, catcher Payton Walker performed at a high level and helped Liberty Hill win 6-1 and improve to 2-0 in District 8-3A. Walker went 4-for-4 at the plate and narrowly missed hitting the cycle with a double, a triple, two singles, and three RBIs.
Pitcher Sam Junkin (6-4) got the win and struck out 13 batters and helped her team on offense by driving in a run. Nicole Thiem (2) got the save and had two strikeouts. The two pitchers held Brownwood to only six hits.
Haylie Park finished with a triple and single. Baylie Bevers finished with a double, and freshman Joely Williamson finished with two singles and an RBI.
Liberty Hill struggled to hit Brownwood’s pitcher at times, as she finished with 11 strikeouts. Eventually the Panthers got to her and scored six runs on 10 hits and one error.
“Too many strike outs for our offense, and that is something that we need to work on,” said Coach Hankins. “Being more aggressive, and making more adjustments on good pitchers. The kids rallied up in the sixth inning and got four runs on the board. Our kids played well, and even with the wind blowing at times up to 25 mph — it was a great win!”
Against Llano in their district opener on March 14, the Lady Panthers won 8-0 and shut out the Lady Jackets offense completely.
Pitcher Junkin had a no-hitter going into the fifth inning before a single up the middle finally broke it up. However, Junkin had already dominated the Lady Jacket lineup with 12 strikeouts through five innings pitched.
Thiem came in for relief and struck out four batters over two innings. On offense, the Lady Panthers had a big third inning and scored three runs. Allyson Sulak hit to shallow left to score Lynsey Mitchell and Junkin, but stretched what should have been a double into an inside the park homerun after the Lady Jacket left fielder missed the ball and allowed it to go all the way back to the warning track.
Liberty Hill added one more run in the fourth inning when Walker hit into a fielder’s choice scoring Delaney Red from second base. Park reached on an infield single in the fifth inning and Sulak scored on an error by the Llano shortstop to make it 5-0 Lady Panthers.
Liberty Hill scored its final three runs in the sixth inning. Sulak hit to shallow left fielder again and the base runners advanced on an error by the pitcher, with one of the base runners coming home.
Williamson then reached first on an infield single and scored a runner from third base. Sulak then scored on an error by the Llano shortstop to make it 8-0.
The Liberty Hill Junior Varsity softball team beat the Marble Falls Junior Varsity team 9-1 in five innings on Friday, March 14. The Junior Varsity team will travel to play in a JV tournament on March 20 and 22 in the Pflugerville Connally J.V. Tournament.
Following their game against Burnet on Friday, the Lady Panthers will host Lampasas in their fourth district game of the season. Lampasas is a young team, but is looking to get revenge on Liberty Hill after losing twice to them last year.