Panther baseball rolls over the Ducks

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By Lance Catchings

Panther baseball 21-3-1 (6-0) improved its win streak to 16 games with two wins over district opponent Taylor. Liberty Hill defeated Taylor 6-1 Friday night on the road and 4-0 at home Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Taylor and the Panthers were deadlocked at zero until the bottom of the fifth inning. After a Wyatt Cheney double on a Taylor error and back-to-back bunts from Jackson Knox and Ryan Flake, Liberty Hill had the bases loaded with no outs. Rowen Guerra then stepped to the plate and hit a two-run RBI single down the third-base line to give Liberty Hill the 2-0 lead. Later in the inning, Flake would score on a fly out from teammate Kaden Dydalewicz to deep center field after tagging up.

In the bottom of the sixth, Pudge Carlisle hit a double and would later score after tagging up on a Guerra fly-out to make the score 4-0. Guerra said when going to the plate, it is all about doing whatever he can to help his teammates.

“When I went to the plate, my only thought was to hit the ball in play and get my job done,” Guerra said. “I didn’t even know how many runs had been scored, because I was looking to run to second. It feels good to have the success that we do right now. Coach Hutcherson is working us hard and it is paying off on the field. It is great having a coach that coaches us this year.”

Dydalewicz got the win on the mound as he pitched all seven innings, allowing three hits, no runs and striking out 11 batters. The senior said he was thankful to have his teammates playing hard behind him.

“My teammates played extremely well behind me tonight,” Dydalewicz said. “I started off a little rough, but they were right there to back me up through some tough situations. When I did find my zone, my pitching felt good. When that happens, you just keep flowing. I think defense is our biggest takeaway from this series. If we play sound defense, we can play with anybody.”

Head Coach Steven Hutcherson said these types of series, like the closely contested one against Taylor, make for great learning situations.

“As frustrating as it can be playing these types of games, because you feel you should be doing more offensively, we can learn from it,” Hutcherson said. “Playoff baseball will be nip and tuck and in some ways, it is preparing us for that. We will get in games later in district and in the playoffs where we should know how to grind it out and finish those games. We are getting other teams’ best shot. When you win a couple games and get things rolling a little bit, you will get everyone’s best shot and tonight, we got Taylor’s.”

In the Panthers’ 6-1 over Taylor last Friday night, it was defense and sound pitching that the Panthers relied on. Liberty Hill scored one run in the first inning, four in the fourth and one in the fifth to earn the win.

Cheney pitched six innings, allowing one hit, one run and striking out 10. Mason Stearns pitched the last inning, allowing one hit, no runs and striking out one.

“Pitching and defense were really good for us in our first game against Taylor,” Hutcherson said. “It has almost spoiled us in a way, because we know we don’t have to go out and score eight or nine runs. We struggled early and then had some better at bats in the middle part of the game. We got some guys on and got a few guys over, which gave us the runs to let us feel comfortable. All in all, if we are pitching well and playing good defense, we won’t have to score a bunch. I think we still have more in the tank than what we have shown in both games during this series.”

Despite being on a 16-game win streak, Hutcherson said his team will not make the mistake of overlooking any opponent.

“In some ways, keeping these games tight and not exploding on another team or running someone off the field is what keeps you in check,” he said. “If every game we play is tight, then we can’t assume anything about anybody. We have to go out and play with our best effort every night.”

Liberty Hill’s next series will be against the rival Burnet Bulldogs, beginning this Friday night on the road. Burnet will travel to Liberty Hill Tuesday.

Following the Burnet series, Liberty Hill will host Lampasas April 18. The game will also serve as Military/First Responders Appreciation Night.

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