Baseball season kicks off with preseason scrimmage

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Liberty Hill’s Chandler Freeman (center) gets caught in a pickle during the Panthers’ scrimmage against the Manor Mustangs. Their regular season kicks off Tuesday against Boerne. (Alex Rubio Photo)

By LANCE CATCHINGS

The Liberty Hill baseball program kicked off its season Feb. 9, by hosting the Manor Mustangs in a controlled scrimmage. Liberty Hill took the decisive edge in the contest at every level as Head Coach Michael Kristan was pleased with what he saw from his players.

“For the most part, I thought everyone played well,” Kristan said. “Varsity probably won 10-2, junior varsity gold probably won 15-0, and junior varsity purple won roughly 12-2.”

The varsity Panthers are coming off a 27-5 season last year in which they went 12-0 en route to a District Championship. The long road for the Panthers to get back there starts in the beginning of the season with coaching evaluations.

“We saw a lot of good things against Manor,” Kristan said. “The guys we expected to do good played well. We had a lot of people score runs and were really impressed with some of the guys who did not play varsity last year. Brady Lundy had a couple of doubles and Tayton Neely stopped well. Our pitcher did a pretty good job on the mound. He got a little nervous first time out there and walked a few guys, but settled down and retired batters with the bases loaded. We saw a lot of good things from a lot of different people. It was good see those guys fill in the voids we had for this year, and hopefully those guys will run with it.”

Kristan makes a point of not over-coaching during scrimmages. He prefers to let his players swing the bat and see how they compete without being over-instructed early in the year.

“We just go out and play,” he said. “During scrimmages, I don’t give signals or anything like that. I want them to learn how to bunt and steal on their own, that way they are not surprised when I call it. We just want them to go out and show us what they can do. I didn’t over-coach them against Manor, that’s for sure.”

With one scrimmage remaining against Marble Falls, the coaches will focus heavily on the players they need to see more playing time from, while those with more experience won’t be on the field as much.

“The scrimmages are for me to see how they compete against other people,” Kristan said. “The kids that I know can already play will not play as much. The kids I have questions about will be in the evaluation phase until Friday when we make our final evaluations.”

It’s been a long journey to the start of the season for the Panther baseball team, and Kristan said that all the players are ready to go.

“The players love competing against other people, so they were excited and ready to go,” he said. “The great thing here in Liberty Hill is the kids are always ready to go. I have to pull them back more times than push them forward. I have to pick and choose my spots on when to rest kids. They are young and ready to run which is a good thing. It’s a lost easier to coach those thoroughbreds that want to run than the donkeys that don’t want to get out of the gate. Sometimes I have to slow them down more than trying to speed them up, and that’s a good thing.”

The Panthers will open regular season play at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 20, on the road against Boerne.

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