By Taylor Grafft
The Texas Girls Coaches Association selected the All-State teams for softball in conferences 1A, 2A, 3A, 4A and 5A on Tuesday morning. Liberty Hill’s junior pitcher Sam Junkin was named to the 3A All-State list after she helped lead the Lady Panthers to a Regional Quarterfinal Championship with a 16-6 record.
Last month, Junkin was honored with the District MVP award and was one of 13 Lady Panthers to make the Academic All-District list.
“It’s just so rewarding knowing that all of your hard work has finally paid off and is being recognized,” said Junkin. “And I love that I am able to do what I do with the team that I have. I don’t think it would be as exciting to me if I were playing anywhere other than Liberty Hill. My whole team deserves the title of All-State.”
Junkin credits not only her individual success this season to her own personal hard work and dedication, but to the team’s camaraderie.
“I really enjoyed this season for many reasons,” Junkin said. “Mainly because I wasn’t just working hard to better myself for any group of girls. I was playing with some of my best friends. That is what made this season the best one yet. Knowing that you have a whole team behind you that would do absolutely anything for you and never do anything to let you down.”
In May, the Lady Panthers fell short in the Regional Semifinals to Snyder. The team was disappointed as they knew they had what it takes to make it even further.
“As a whole we just need to focus more on the little pieces of the game,” Junkin said. “We need to become more mentally tough. We have to play like we know there is no one that should beat us. We’ve been saying this and we haven’t been able to completely finish it yet, but next year is the year that we’re going all the way.”
This offseason Junkin is taking several steps to improve herself as a player. She is back working with Elgin coach Amanda Wolf on pitching mechanics and getting her arm stronger. Junkin has worked with Coach Wolf in the past and has been someone that she has looked up to as a mentor and friend.
Junkin is also participating in a summer softball league with two other Liberty Hill Lady Panther softball teammates, sophomore Nicole Thiem and junior Payton Walker. The trio is hoping to make it to nationals this summer with the team. They will also work on strengthening their friendship and understanding as teammates.
“I think that being able to play together over the summer is just going to make us that much better,” Junkin said. “Just being able to get to know each other even better and becoming closer as teammates. With Nicole and I having Payton as our catcher this summer is going to make us stronger.”
Junkin and Walker will be entering their senior year in the fall and will hope to make it back to the State tournament they both experienced as freshmen on varsity.