La Vernia’s explosive offense in doubleheader knocks off Liberty Hill
By Taylor Grafft
Three different La Vernia players hit home runs in Saturday’s doubleheader, as the Bears outscored Liberty Hill 25-to-6 in the final two games of the bi-district championship series, and ended the Panthers’ season.
After La Vernia managed to tie the series 1-1 following their impressive, 18-3, win in Game Two, the Bears went on to win Game Three, 7-3, and closed out the series.
“We probably made a few more mistakes than we did (Friday) night,” Coach Mike Kristan admitted. “I asked a lot of guys to pitch (Saturday) that hadn’t pitched in awhile. Jaret (Huddleston) had to start a game and he hadn’t started in awhile, and he did a great job for us. Zach (Smith) came in and did well for us. It just shows you what kind of kids we have that are willing to compete even though they didn’t get a lot of reps.”
The Panthers fielded one of the youngest teams in their district this season. Only four seniors were on the roster this year, that number is significantly less than last year when Kristan had double-digit seniors.
“Last year we had to replace 10 or 11 seniors,” Kristan said. “This year it will only be four. (Those four) did a great job in leading the team and being good teammates over the last four years. We got a lot of dings this year, but it was a growing process and I’m real proud of them. We competed.”
The Bears struck first in Game Three on Cole Lowry’s two-run home run to left centerfield in the top of the fourth inning.
Liberty Hill’s Ryan Ragle responded in the bottom of the inning with an RBI single that scored Slater Foust.
La Vernia extended the gap even further off Justus Parker’s two-run home run in the top of the fifth, which made the score 4-1.
The Bears would score two more runs in the fifth and another in the seventh to take a commanding 7-1 lead in Game Three.
With their season on the line, Liberty Hill showed some fight in the bottom half of the seventh.
The Panthers strung together a line of base runners and plated two runs, but just didn’t have enough left in the tank after a long Saturday to complete the comeback.
Liberty Hill’s David Nash drove in the first run in the seventh after he ripped an RBI triple to deep centerfield to score Ty Reid.
Garrett Wright then singled to left to bring in Nash, but the team fell a few runs short in the end.
The Panthers managed to keep their opponent’s bats at bay in Friday’s series opener, winning 3-2 behind senior Marshall Brown’s 11 strikeouts. However, Kristan’s team couldn’t close out the series on Saturday despite having home-field advantage and momentum from Game One.
Kaleb Foster drove in two runs in Friday’s victory and also took the mound in relief of Brown to close out the last inning with the game on the line.
“I was just relaxed at the plate and waiting on my pitch,” Foster said. “I was nervous (when I took the mound in the seventh), but I knew I could get it done.”
Game One of the bi-district championship series was originally scheduled to take place at La Vernia on Friday, but due to weather concerns the teams agreed to play all three games at Liberty Hill.
La Vernia scored eight unanswered runs in the first four innings of Game Two before Liberty Hill plated three runs of their own to cut the lead to 8-3.
Then Austin Starks smashed a two-run home run over the left field wall that barely stayed fair.
The Bears then scored eight runs in the seventh inning to show off their offensive prowess and close out the second game of the series.