Liberty Hill softball sweeps Columbus, set for regional tournament

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DSC_5210-1By Taylor Grafft

SAN MARCOS–Win each battle, and then you win the war. On offense it means thinking about one hit at a time. On defense it means working for every out.

On Friday in San Marcos the Liberty Hill Lady Panther softball team used that mindset to sweep the Columbus Cardinals in a best-of-three series.

It wasn’t always pretty at times for the Lady Panthers, especially in Game One on Thursday, but at the end of the day whoever has the most runs wins the game, as Yogi Berra would say.

With the victory the Lady Panthers book their ticket back to the regional tournament next week, where they’ll face the winner of the Devine versus Orange Grove series.

Liberty Hill scored at least a run in three out of seven innings on Friday in Game Two, which was a sharp contrast to Game One, where the team scored all five of their runs in the first inning.

Senior Sam Junkin was the starter for both games in the series and worked the strike zone well to keep the Cardinals’ hitters off balance. The workhorse only allowed one run in ten innings, but claimed she wasn’t too tired despite the extra work.

“I was a little tired,” Junkin admitted. “It actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. I haven’t pitched that much in awhile. You just have to throw every pitch with a purpose and know what the plan is. Win every pitch, win every batter, win every inning, and you’ll win the game.”

Junkin also helped herself at the plate by knocking in the Lady Panthers’ fifth run in Game Two on a double to the gap in left field.

Liberty Hill strung together a series of base runners in the top of the fifth inning of Game Two by way of three extra-base hits.

Sophomore Joely Williamson was one of the players that took an extra base when she scored senior Payton Walker on a double to the gap in left field. Williamson finished the game with a team-leading two RBIs.
Junkin followed Williamson with the double to score the sophomore from second, making the game 5-1. Two batters later Jenna Kieschnick came in to pinch hit and knocked a triple to the wall in right field, scoring Makinley Browder, who was a courtesy runner for the pitcher. Kieschnick then came home for the Lady Panthers’ seventh run of the ballgame after a passed ball.

Lady Panthers’ coach Charice Hankins wasn’t very thrilled with her team’s effort on Thursday, despite the team winning Game One 5-3. The team only managed two hits following a huge first inning where they scored five runs.

“We were just early and ahead of the ball,” Hankins admitted. “We were on our front foot and too anxious. I think we were being aggressive, but just not seeing the ball very well. Thank goodness for those five runs (in the first inning). I think when (Columbus) scored those three runs it put a little pressure on us.”

Friday’s postgame was much more relaxed for Hankins as she thought her team really showed up strong and continued to show effort through all seven innings.

“I saw more consistency,” Hankins said. “That’s something I’ve seen all year. I know that’s it’s going to get tougher as we get further along in the playoffs, but our expectation is still to be in every inning and create opportunities to score runs. Today I thought we hit the ball better and took care of the runners we had on base. We can’t expect a hit every single time, but we at least want to hit the ball solid.”

Liberty Hill also responded well to some controversial calls on the field, and a changing strike zone between innings. Hankins admitted that the team responded well by not worrying about the calls and focusing on what they had control of—and letting their bats do the talking.

“I think it kind of motivated them,” Hankins said. “I think they were frustrated, but this time instead of taking that frustration and losing it, they put it into their bats. Which is the only talking I tell them that they can do. When something’s not going our way the only way we need to speak is through our bats and through our actions on defense.”

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