Baseball undefeated in scrimmages, set for opening tournament

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By Lance Catchings

The Liberty Hill baseball team wrapped up its scrimmage season last week as the Panthers dominated Gatesville, Marble Falls, and Leander Glenn to close out the preseason.

Head Coach Steven Hutcherson said the team has already started the transition into prepping for the regular season. The Panthers hosted Boerne Wednesday night in their season opener due to weather concerns on Tuesday, when it was originally scheduled.

“We have started the transition to going from playing for a scrimmage and getting ready to play a real game,” Hutcherson said. “Friday, we beat Marble Falls Friday 14-1 and Saturday, we defeated Leander Glenn 13-2. I thought we played well, overall. Marble Falls had capable guys at every position. We capitalized on every mistake they made and if they made an error, we found ways to score guys.”

Offensive production at the plate has been up for the Panthers, and Hutcherson is pleased with that and his pitching staff thus far.

“Offensively, we looked good and hit the ball the way I think we’ll be capable of,” he said. “The highlight for us was our pitching. Our pitching was dominant. We played seven innings and struck out 16 against Marble Falls. I don’t think we’ll always need to strike out 16 for us to win, but when you get numbers like that and you only must play defense for five outs, that’s a pretty good night. I felt it showed a little of what our pitching staff will be capable of. At the same time, we were impressive offensively. Our last two scrimmages to me were everything I think we are capable of. They both went well and they both had a lot of similarities.”

Although the Panthers have an ace pitching staff, Hutcherson is holding his cards close to the vest. He prefers to ease his pitching staff into the groove of being on the mound versus having his starters go all out in the beginning of the season, like some programs may do.

“We are still rotating our pitchers,” he said. “The most anybody has thrown is two innings. We do that keeping in mind the next time those guys throw, we will want it to be around three or four innings. Our target is three to four innings right now and somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 pitches. It is a marathon at this point. We need to be able to throw about 90 pitches by our first district game with our starters. It may not be the approach for everyone, but that is something we will work up to.”

Hutcherson has gotten his players to buy into his team-first philosophy. He is happy with how the players have responded so far, but believes there is always plenty of room for improvement.

“I think we are starting to realize we can be good if we learn how to play our game,” Hutcherson said. “That is something I think we are still adjusting to. There are a lot of things we will do in a game that we will get better at with time, whether it be bunting, base running or mixing up pitchers. We have a style we want to get accomplished, and the better we get, the harder we will be to defend.”

With 13 seniors on the roster, Hutcherson believes a big part of how the season goes will be up to them. So far, so good.

“The senior class has been leading the charge,” he said. “They look around and see we have good players here, and they are making sure it runs the way it needs to run. If we have a good practice, it is probably in direct relationship to our seniors having a good practice. If for some reason things aren’t going well, it’s probably the same way. They know they will be held accountable for things, because all eyes are on them.”

Prior to Wednesday’s matchup with Boerne, Hutcherson said they’re no slouches when it comes to opening day opponents, but his team is ready for the challenge.

“Boerne is year-in and -out one of the most competitive teams in the state in class 4A and in Region IV,” he said. “It’s not a layup, and it will be
a good early season test. This could very well be a playoff game three months from now. They will run out a well-coached team with some talent, and we must be ready to meet the challenge.”

Feb. 21-23, the team will compete at the Marble Falls Tournament. The Panthers open the tourney against Second Baptist Thursday at 5 p.m. Friday, they will play a double header against Boerne at 9:30 a.m. and Austin Lanier at noon. They will close out tournament play Saturday at 5 p.m. against La Grange.

“Heading into the Marble Falls tournament we just want to keep progressing,” he said. “Nobody in the state should feel they are as good as they can be at this point. We should still feel like we are at the bottom of the mountain trying to climb. We set the tone with our last two scrimmages and our focus should be how do we carry it over.”

The Panthers will host Navarro at 7 p.m. Tuesday in their second home game of the season.

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