By Taylor Grafft
If you have attended a Liberty Hill Lady Panther Varsity Softball game this season, you are probably aware of Joely Williamson doing something crazy like hitting a home run in four consecutive District games and making highlight reel catches at the shortstop position.
According to her teammates and coaches, that is just what she does. That is why the veterans on the varsity team came up with the, “Joely, do something crazy!” chant they yell from the dugout when she steps up to bat.
And, she is only a freshman. Williamson is just tapping into her potential as a player at young age and is already becoming a vocal leader on the field and in the dugout for her teammates.
In baseball, scouts describe some minor league prospects as a five-tool player. That is a rare player that has the ability to hit for average, hit for power, run, throw, and field at a higher level than everyone else. They don’t come around that often and for any Panther supporter that has watched her play, it is clear that Williamson has those five abilities.
Williamson plays the shortstop position for the Lady Panthers, which requires one of the strongest arms on the team. Williamson says in order to be successful at the position you have to have speed, awareness, a strong arm and leadership.
Williamson arrived in Liberty Hill in kindergarten and started playing softball when she was seven years old. She met Liberty Hill Head Softball Coach Charice Hankins at several softball camps and immediately showed promise as a player.
As with any successful player, hard work and dedication is what got Williamson to where she is today. Williamson says she practices every day at getting better and looks to her father for tips on how to become a better teammate and player.
Williamson’s father played college baseball for the University of Texas and was later drafted and played professional baseball for the Pittsburg Pirates in the 1990s.
Williamson says she has always had a large family of supporters that come to every one of her games to watch her play.
Williamson made her varsity debut on Feb. 18 in the Panthers’ first official game of the season against Boerne. Williamson admits she was nervous playing in her first game and felt the pressure to perform, but says that her teammates and coaches did a great job of calming her down and giving her confidence.
As Williamson had success at the plate and her confidence grew, she became a vocal leader on the field for her team and constantly encourages her teammates to perform at a high level.
In the month of April, Williamson has hit four home runs for a total of six this season. From April 4, against Llano to April 15, against Lampasas she hit a home run in four consecutive games.
“It’s insane that I’m leading the team in home runs,” said Williamson. “I’m really not trying to hit home runs. I’m just trying to make good contact.”
Although she didn’t hit a home run against Gatesville in the Panthers’ final district game of the season, she did provide the Panther supporters with another highlight reel play. In the top of the third inning, Williamson made a spectacular diving catch and tossed the ball from the ground to Kallen Floyd at second base for a force out. The play got everyone in the stands, even the Gatesville supporters on their feet and clapping.
Williamson says that in order to have success at the plate you have to be patient and have the ability to find the right pitch to hit.
“My goal is to never strike out,” Williamson said. “I always want to get on base in any way I can for my team.”
Williamson describes herself as loud and a team player. She says she always wants to cheer and give encouragement to her teammates and be that leader that the players can lean on in tough situations.
This season, several veteran players have helped Williamson become a better player and teammate. Williamson says she really looks up to Nicole Thiem, Sam Junkin and Lynsey Mitchell as players that have taken her under their wing and taught her a lot.
In the fall, Williamson will keep testing her skills and athletic ability by playing volleyball. She says it’s a way to keep herself busy and in shape.