By Taylor Grafft
The Liberty Hill Panthers baseball season ended last Saturday after a heartbreaking loss to Lubbock Cooper in the Regional Semifinal round.
The matchup, which took place at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, was originally scheduled as a best-of-three series, but Friday’s game was cancelled due to inclement weather. The matchup then turned into a Game One winner-take-all scenario, which saw the Panthers fall 8-2 to the Pirates.
The Pirates took a 7-0 lead after the fourth inning with Stanton Kean, AJ Perez and Justin Johnson leading the way for Lubbock Cooper. The Panthers’ pitching and offense both struggled equally against the Pirates.
The Panthers tried three different pitchers throughout the course of the game, but none could stop the Pirates from consistently putting runners on base and driving them in.
Panther hitters struggled as the offense only managed to garner two hits in the loss. The Panthers, however, showed a lot of heart and fight in the bottom of the seventh when they scored two runs, but there was too much damage to overcome.
Although Coach Mike Kristan and the players were heartbroken with the loss, they still viewed the season as very positive and something to be incredibly proud of when they look at what they accomplished.
“Cooper played well and we didn’t,” said Coach Kristan. “It was an awesome season with our best record and deepest run into the playoffs.”
In a team that was filled with senior playmakers and leaders that will certainly be missed, Kristan sends off the talented and experienced 2014 class with a 28-6 overall record, a Regional Quarterfinal Championship and a District Championship.
Although Kristan is losing a lot of star power and experience from the roster, he still has nine returning lettermen next season that are more than capable of stepping up and assuming leadership roles.
Several players on the roster came away with District and Postseason awards for the Panthers. Senior catcher Colby Schmidt earned District Co-MVP with senior Isaac Hutto of Llano.
Schmidt will participate in the All-Star game at 6 p.m. June 9 at the Dell Diamond in Round Rock.
Liberty Hill sophomore third baseman Slater Foust earned District Offensive MVP, while Seth Owen of Brownwood and Josh Thompson of Burnet earned Co-Defensive MVP honors.
Senior Travis Gipson earned the District Newcomer Award for his play this season. Six Panthers earned spots on the All-District First team including junior pitcher Marshall Brown, Schmidt, Foust, senior outfielder Jake Stalder, freshman designated-hitter Garrett Wright, and senior utility man Cody Remore.
Three more players earned their names on the All-District Second team including senior pitcher Kannon Prior, senior first baseman Mason Baty, and senior outfielder Tristan Heidelberg.
Senior Tyler Vickers and Jason Reeves earned All-District Honorable Mentions.
Coach Kristan and his assistant coaches also gave out team awards for the players they thought performed the best this season and showed the most leadership and character on and off the field.
Senior second baseman Tyler Vickers earned the Most Improved Player award, while senior Colt Stofle earned the Panther Spirit award. Senior catcher Schmidt and sophomore third baseman Foust earned Co-Offensive player honors. Schmidt and senior Gipson earned Co-Defensive player honors.
The Panthers had a host of players earn Academic All-District honors for their success in the classroom including Jason Reeves, David Nash, Travis Gipson, Collin Bedford, Alex Rosales, Colt Stofle, Garrett Wright, Colby Schmidt, Tristan Heidelberg, Tyler Vickers and Jake Stalder.
Four Liberty Hill players earned spots on the THSBCA Academic All-State list including Travis Gipson, Alex Rosales, Tristan Heidelberg and Tyler Vickers.