By KEITH SPARKS
After a low-scoring series against Waco Robinson May 12-13, during which the Lady Panthers scored only five total runs in three games, they were able to get back to their ways against Little Cypress-Mauriceville (LCM).
Liberty Hill beat LCM in two straight games, scoring nearly triple the amount of runs in game one that they did in the entirety of their last series, winning by a final score of 14-6 on May 18.
“We’re focusing on one thing while we’re batting, and that one thing is driving the ball,” said Jessika Truax of the high-scoring affair. “I think that’s been really helping us out, not thinking too much about getting hits and stuff like that. We’re just trying to tie things together.”
The Panthers got off to a hot start in game one, scoring two runs in the first inning and four in the second to take an early 6-1 lead. In the third, LCM looked like they might make it a close one, scoring two runs to the Panthers’ zero to make it a 6-3 game.
In the fourth inning, however, the Lady Panthers caught fire at the plate, scoring five runs to LCM’s one. The Panthers would score a single run in each of the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings before giving up two in the bottom of the seventh to win by a final score of 14-6.
“We were expecting a better game just because of the scores in the last series they had,” Truax said of the unexpected blowout. “We actually wanted to come out and beat them to show them who was boss, but I wasn’t expecting to come out and get such a high scoring game.”
Liberty Hill Head Coach Charice Hankins gave credit to the Panthers’ well-rounded effort on both sides of the ball, from the batter’s box to the pitcher’s mound and beyond.
“I think it was a combination of our pitching, run support, and solid defensive play,” said Hankins. “Not letting one hit hurt us, or one mistake cause any stress. We kept our focus and knew what we had to do. Our hitters saw the ball well and hit the ball solid.”
Carissa Garza finished with four singles, four runs scored and two RBIs, Sam Barnett finished with four singles, two runs scored, and four RBIs, Truax finished with a single, a home run, one run scored, and two RBIs, Kinsey Kuhlmann finished with a double, a home run, two runs scored, and two RBIs, and Kandyn Faurie finished with a home run, two runs scored, and an RBI.
Amber Wiggins got the win on the mound, bringing her season record to an incredible 21-1.
“Our pitchers and Coach Brewer are doing a great job keeping the other team a little off-balance with their pitch selections,” Hankins said of her bullpen. “They are hitting their spots and making the batter keep the big part of the bat off the big part of the ball.”
The Lady Panthers put on another clinic on May 19, winning in a shutout by a final score of 9-0. Liberty Hill jumped on LCM quickly, scoring three runs in the first inning. They followed that up with one run in the second, three in the fourth, and two in the fifth.
Garza finished the game with two singles, two doubles, three runs scored, and one RBI, Barnett finished a single, a home run, one run scored, and three RBIs, Truac finished with a double, one run scored, and an RBI, and Joely Williamson finished with two singles and two runs scored.
Abby Covington got the win on the mound in game two, bringing her season record to 15-1.
Although they were able to come away with two straight victories, Truax explained that, in order to move forward in the playoffs, the Lady Panthers will have to fix some little things that have plagued them thus far.
“Even though we were beating them pretty badly, we had some hiccups here and there,” she said. “Nothing too serious, but I think in this next series, that’s really going to matter. Correcting those hiccups and making sure that we’re focused and spot-on with what we want in this next series.”
Liberty Hill will face Lorena in the next round for the Regional Final Championship. Lorena has beaten Madisonville, Giddings, Salado, and Bridge City so far in the playoffs.
According to Truax, the excitement is building for the Panthers with each round as their goal of a state championship becomes closer to a reality.
“I think our team is doing a really good job staying focused on the one goal we have this year,” Truax said. “It’s actually getting more and more exciting with each step that we take getting toward the state tournament. We’re really excited for this next series coming up.”
Game one of the Regional Final Championship was scheduled at press time Wednesday, May 24, at Georgetown High School, followed by game two on Saturday, May 27 at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor at 1 p.m. If necessary, game three will be played at 3 p.m. at UMHB.