By Taylor Grafft
The Liberty Hill Lady Panther Softball team, ranked second in the latest 2014 Texas Girls Coaches Association Softball Poll, handled their business once again last weekend as they handed their opponents another two-game sweep in a best-of-three series (their third two-game sweep this post season).
Coach Charice Hankins and the Liberty Hill Lady Panthers now move onto the Regional Semifinals where they will face Snyder in a best-of-three playoff round this weekend, May 16-17.
Snyder, which is ranked fourth in the same poll, will undoubtedly be one of the hardest opponents they have faced this season. However, the Lady Panthers have proven that they are up for a challenge and have just as much talent as anyone in the state.
“At this point in the season, every team in the playoffs is a great challenge,” said Coach Hankins. “Everyone is playing to win and move on to the next level.”
Coach Hankins said that she and her assistants have not seen Snyder play in person, but that they talked to the Andrews coaches (the team that Snyder defeated in their Regional Quarterfinal round) and have gathered that they are a good hitting team that has the capability of putting a lot of runs on the board.
From the top of the Lady Panthers lineup all the way to the ninth spot, Liberty Hill has been on fire at the plate this post season and scoring runs in bunches. In the circle, Sam Junkin and Nicole Thiem have been a lethal one-two combo that has been keeping hitters off-balance and tallying up the strikeouts.
If the Lady Panther hitters and pitchers can keep up this high level of play in their series against Snyder, they will have a great chance to move onto the next round and get closer to their ultimate goal, a State Title.
In Game Two of the Regional Quarterfinal round against Mineral Wells, the Lady Panthers secured their spot in the next round with a tough 5-2 win over the Lady Rams.
“Mineral Wells played great defense and kept us off the board until the fourth inning,” Coach Hankins said. “It was a great effort by both teams and Game Two was a good, tough win for us.”
In Game Two, both teams finished with eight total hits. Kallen Floyd and Kelly McKinzey led the charge for the Lady Panthers at the plate with each driving in two runs for their team. McKinzey had two doubles, while Floyd had a double and single. Baylie Bevers also finished with a run batted in and a double.
Thiem, who got the start for the Panthers in Game Two, recorded her 11th win of the season after pitching five strong innings. Junkin then came in to close out the game in the sixth and seventh inning to secure the win for the Lady Panthers.
In Game One of the series, the Lady Panthers dominated at the plate with a 14-5 win and a contribution by everyone on the roster.
Junkin got the start for the Panthers and recorded her 16th win of the season. She pitched five strong innings before being relieved by Thiem in the final two innings.
Junkin not only helped the Lady Panthers in the circle, but also led the Lady Panthers at the plate with four RBIs. Lynsey Mitchell finished with three RBIs and a triple. Payton Walker and Aubrey Covington each finished with two runs batted in. Alyson Sulak, Bevers and Floyd also drove in a run each.
Game One of the Lady Panthers’ matchup versus Synder will be on Friday, May 16, at 7 p.m. Game Two will be on Saturday, May 17, at 1 p.m. Game Three (if necessary) will be held 30 minutes after the conclusion of Game Two. All three games of the series will be hosted in Eastland at Eastland High School.