Panther Softball finding its groove with third straight shutout

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By Keith Sparks

After an up-and-down start to the season, the Panther softball team has officially found its groove. On Tuesday, Liberty Hill beat Burnet in a 15-0 shutout just four days after beating Taylor in a 12-0 shutout. On March 26, they beat Eastside Memorial in a 17-0 shutout.

Head Coach Kristen Brewer said her team has previously had trouble attacking slower pitches, but has seemingly figured it out over the past few weeks.

“We’re really seeing the ball well right now,” Brewer said. “We’ve talked about, even with team’s past we’ve had an issue that’s more of a mental issue than a physical issue, of hitting slower pitching. Getting the girls’ mentality around, ‘You’re good hitters. You can make the adjustments early and be able to hit all of it.’ We’re doing a lot better job at that instead of making excuses of it being too slow or too far outside, things like that. They’re doing a really good job of sitting back, being patient, picking good pitches, and attacking the ball.”

Ireland Sargent led the way against Burnet offensively with a 3-4 performance at the plate with two singles, a double, and five RBIs. Ashton Dirner, Kinsey Kuhlmann, Tannis Brewer, and Ashlyn Revere all had two hits each, and Carissa Garza, Leanna Limon, Lauren Macias, and Cheyenne Floyd each had one.

Defensively, the Panthers gave up only one hit through five innings. Floyd pitched a complete game and was backed up by “phenomenal” defense, according to Brewer.

“Our defense has been pretty phenomenal lately,” Brewer said. “I’ve said it before, but I’ve seen more double plays this year out of this team than I have in a long time. They’re staying ready, staying hungry, and they’ve got each other’s backs. Instead of being surprised when a ball gets hit to them, they’re hungry for it. Being able to back each other up, making big plays when we need to, outfielders running and diving for balls, infielders not letting anything get past them, getting lead runners out and things like that, they’re doing a really good job.”

Tuesday was Floyd’s first complete game of district play, and it could not have gone better. She struck out nine batters while giving up only one hit and one walk in five innings of play.

“She’s been working really hard,” Brewer said. “She’s still grasping some things with her control and stuff like that, but being able to take control out on the mound I something that we’re going to need. Not to take anything from her, but it works really well when she comes in and we use both of them as much as we can. Her coming in as a closer, there’s such a difference in their pitching that it catches batters off-guard. It doesn’t give them a chance to make the adjustment on both pitchers. Trying to get both of them that endurance both through practice and in games as much as possible before we hit playoffs is something that’s going to help us in the long run.”

On Friday in the Panthers’ 12-0 shutout over Taylor, Garza went 4-5 at the plate with two singles, two doubles, and two RBIs. Limon and Kuhlmann both finished 3-4 at the plate as Limon hit two singles and was walked once, and Kuhlmann hit two singles and a home run while finishing with three RBIs. Sargent and Dylan Lewis both finished with two hits, as well.

Abby Covington pitched the first six innings against Taylor, striking out 11 batters while giving up one hit and two walks. Floyd came in for the final inning, striking out one batter while giving up one hit and one walk.

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