LHHS baseball drops season opener in wind, cold
By MIKE SCHOEFFEL
It hardly felt like baseball weather when the Panthers took to the field for their season opener against Boerne on Tuesday. Fans were wrapped snugly in blankets and quilts, attempting to stave off the frigidity brought on by a biting wind chill that descended into the 30’s.
The Liberty Hill offense went cold, too, thwarted by a strong pitching performance by Boerne’s Connor Queen, falling 15-1 in five innings. The Panthers trailed 9-0 by the third inning and were never able to right the ship, as “poor team defense and too many strikeouts,” as Liberty Hill head coach Mike Kristan put it, combined to cause a mercy-rule shortened defeat.
Kristan, wrapped snugly himself, attempted to glean the positives from the loss.
“At the plate, we struck out looking way too much,” he said. “That doesn’t sound like a positive, but it is, because it’s something can teach a little bit.
“We only had two really bad innings,” he added. “They didn’t hit the ball all that hard against us, but our defense just wasn’t up to par.”
Liberty Hill scored its lone run in the bottom of the third, when Cooper Phelan sprinted home on a passed ball. The Panthers put two on with nobody out in the bottom of the fifth, but a successful pickoff attempt by Queen coupled with a runner-caught-stealing killed the rally.
A couple of rough defensive innings early in the game did not help matters, either.
“Our defensive issues, I think, were part nerves, part due to the weather,” said Kristan. “We have a big time lack of experience right now. We don’t have a lot of returners at many positions. The first two pitchers that pitched today didn’t throw a varsity inning last year. I thought they did well enough, but the defense didn’t help.
“But we don’t want to start making excuses,” he added. “We just have to accept this defeat and move on.”
Kristan said he doesn’t doubt his players’ ability to bounce back from the lopsided defeat, something they’ll have to do quickly, as they travel to Marble Falls this weekend — Thursday through Saturday — for an early-season tournament. The Panthers will be competing in tournaments for the next three weekends: first Marble Falls, then Llano, then Elgin/Manor.
“I don’t question our want-to,” he said. “I’m not worried about them quitting or feeling sorry for themselves. I think they’ll be excited to come back and play after being embarrassed 15-1.”
“You can tell they’re not too upset. They’ll be fine,” he added. “They’re not going to sit around and cry for hours. They’re going to fix it and move on.” The temperature in Marble Falls is expected to be in the 60s and 70s all weekend.