Baseball to face Fredericksburg in bi-district series

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By Lance Catchings

The Liberty Hill baseball team has been hard at work after winning the 27-4A district championship, prepping for who they would face in the first round of the playoffs. The Panthers drew a familiar opponent for the bi-district playoff round, where they’ll play against Fredericksburg.

The teams will play a best-of-three series with the first game being played Thursday night in Fredericksburg and game two being played Friday in Liberty Hill. Both games will be played at 7 p.m. If necessary, game three will be played Saturday in Fredericksburg at 1 p.m.

Liberty Hill Head Coach Steven Hutcherson said there’s been a noticeable buzz at practice, and it’s obvious his players look forward to getting the series underway.

“I think by the time the series rolls around, we will be really excited to go,” Hutcherson said. “We chose to not do a warm-up game, not because we did not think it would be worth it, but because there is a chance the teams we would have played we might have to play again. We thought it was better to be able to go watch them then be off playing another game somewhere. We are preparing the right way, and we are finally to the week that we get to play.”

The Panthers have had State Championship expectations all year, but Hutcherson said what is most important is focusing on the task at hand each week.

“I think the approach all year is understanding we could be a really good team and that this thing could go for a while,” he said. “That will only happen if we show up and play well. We have been good about staying in the moment and not trying to look too far down the road. If you are going to be good, you must play good in every round. Our first opportunity to do that is this week in the first round of the playoffs. We can’t worry about five weeks from now; we have to worry about what is right in front of us.”

The Panthers defeated Fredericksburg back in March, just before opening district play, in a 15-2 rout. Hutcherson said there are things his team could take away from that victory, the most important being that Fredericksburg is a dangerous team.

“What stood out to me about our first game against Fredericksburg was we had good at-bats and hit the ball hard,” he said. “We also took our walks when the ball wasn’t in the zone. We played good defense and got good pitching. The game ended up being a little lopsided in the end, but at no point during that game did I feel like they weren’t a good team. I think Fredericksburg is quite possibly the best four seed in the state of Texas. They have a good lineup and they have guys that can pitch and throw strikes. There were better draws for other people than what we got. It will not be a cakewalk by any stretch, and they will give us their best shot. We must go out and play well. They could end your season in hurry if you show up and do not play well.”

Offensively, Liberty Hill scored its most runs of the season against Fredericksburg, and Hutcherson is hoping that was production his team can recreate.

“I want our offense to show up, because I feel it alleviates some pressure for the guys that are on the mound,” he said. “It starts with pitching and defense doing their job. If we have a night where we can score five or six runs, you must feel good about your chances. If you have a night where you explode and can get up closer to 10, then you must feel really good about your chances. It starts with pitching well and playing good defense.”

Liberty Hill enters the game with a 25-3-1 overall record and a 19-game win streak, but Hutcherson said none of that matters now.

“We have stressed to our guys that everyone is 0-0 now,” he said. “Nobody cares that you are a district champ or what your record is. The only thing that matters is the playoff series in front of us, and you must outplay your opponent to move on. In our region, anybody that made it in from a four seed to a one seed can win a playoff series. The first round, you must prepare like they will give you their best shot, because that is what they will do.”

Should Liberty Hill advance, they will face the winner of the Caldwell vs. El Campo series in the area playoff round.

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