No. 1 ranked Panther softball remains undefeated in district

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Ashley Gatlin (#12) connects with a pitch right down the middle during the Lady Panthers’ win over Burnet. Liberty Hill finished with 15 hits as a team and held Burnet to zero. (Alex Rubio Photo)

Ashley Gatlin (#12) connects with a pitch right down the middle during the Lady Panthers’ win over Burnet. Liberty Hill finished with 15 hits as a team and held Burnet to zero. (Alex Rubio Photo)

By KEITH SPARKS

Another day, another shutout district victory for the Panther softball team. This one, much like Liberty Hill’s seven other district victories, was over pretty quickly.

The Panthers took a 7-0 lead in the first inning on Tuesday against the Burnet Bulldogs, highlighted by a two-RBI double from Ashley Gatlin that put the Panthers up 5-0.

In the bottom of the third inning with the Panthers up 10-0, senior Joely Williamson continued her flaming hot hitting streak with a two-run home run over the right-field fence to add insult to injury, putting the Panthers up 12-0. Williamson went three for four at the plate, including a home run, a triple, and four RBIs.

After beating Burnet by a final score of 15-0, the Panthers have now outscored district opponents by an incredible 106-3 combined margin during their undefeated 8-0 start to district play. Head Coach Charice Hankins attributed much of their success to the contagious enthusiasm the girls have shown.

“I think hitting is contagious and I think their enthusiasm is contagious,” Hankins said. “I think everything that you can do for girls, I think once they buy in and get excited, it’s contagious.”

Jessika Truax went two for three at the plate, finishing with two doubles and three RBIs. Kinsey Kuhlmann went a perfect two for two with two doubles and two RBIs.

Liberty Hill starting pitcher Amber Wiggins, now an undefeated 15-0 on the season, struck out all nine batters during her three innings of work. She and relief pitcher Abby Covington, who pitched the fourth and final inning, combined to pitch a no-hitter. Wiggins said she didn’t expect to go undefeated by any means, but knows she has put the work in to get to this level.

“It was definitely something that I strived for,” Wiggins said of her undefeated start to the season. “I’ve worked very hard from my freshman year and through the summer to get to this point.”

Wiggins and the rest of her Panther teammates have remained level-headed throughout their success, each of them sharing the sentiment that they are simply “doing what we need to do.”

“Being there for my team, getting the strikeouts that I need to get, getting the outs, and doing my part,” Wiggins said of what she’s done well. “When I’m not there I know my team’s there to back me up, so I have no worries there, and I think we’re doing what we need to do.”

The Panthers, who now hold a 23-1-1 overall record, were recently given the number one ranking in the state at the 4A level by the Texas Girls Coaches Association. That ranking, although a nice testament to the team’s hard work, is something that Hankins said her team doesn’t worry about.

“It seems like we’ve always gotten the respect of, you know, being acknowledged in the top 10” Hankins said. “We’ve been number one a couple times, but we don’t look at it. It’s not something I’ve ever checked. The kids will talk about it, but I just tell them that it’s a sign of other people’s respect of what we’re doing, and it doesn’t mean anything. You’ve still got to win the ballgames, and you’ve still got to be playing in June.”

Last Friday, the Panthers won in yet another shutout victory against district opponent Leander Glenn by a final score of 17-0.

Covington got the start on the mound and the victory for the Panthers while pitching a no-hitter. Kuhlmann went a perfect three for three at the plate with a home run and four RBIs, Williamson went two for three with a double, a triple, and two RBIs, and Kandyn Faurie went a perfect two for two with a home run and two RBIs.

Next, the Panthers will face Caldwell at Caldwell High School at 6:30 p.m. this Friday, April 7, followed by an away game against the Ducks at Taylor High School next Monday, April 10.

Sports@LHIndependent.com

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