Panther softball suffers first two district losses
By Keith Sparks
The Panther softball team suffered its first two district losses of the season within a matter of six days — the first a 4-3 loss to Salado and the second a 6-5 loss to Lampasas, with a 19-1 win over Llano sandwiched in between.
Prior to their matchups with Salado and Lampasas, Liberty Hill Head Coach Kristen Brewer said she thought those were the only two teams in the district that could consistently compete with the Panthers.
“For one, they can hit a little bit better,” Brewer said of both teams. “They do have pitchers that can throw the ball, but they fight back a little bit more than everybody else. Us, we’ve got to face up to the challenge from the beginning, instead of waiting until somebody that plays us decides to fight back.”
The Panthers’ loss to Lampasas took place on Monday, as the game that had initially been scheduled for Tuesday was moved due to weather concerns. Lampasas took an early 3-1 lead after the first inning, stretching it to 4-1 after the third, but the Panthers bounced back with three unanswered runs in the fifth and sixth innings to tie it up.
After a scoreless seventh inning for both teams, Lampasas was able to put up two runs in the top of the eighth, and the Panthers were able to score only one before Lampasas walked away with a one-run victory.
Although unhappy with two losses in six days, Brewer admitted that she’d rather suffer those losses at this point in the season than in the playoffs, as long as they’re able to learn from their mistakes.
“That’s kind of what we’ve been talking about the last couple of days,” Brewer said. “We don’t like for it to happen at all, but if it’s going to happen, it’s better for it to happen now, as long as we can get something out of it.”
Kandyn Faurie hit Liberty Hill’s only home run of the game with a solo shot, while Logan Oehler and Ashton Dirner each went two-for-four at the plate with two singles, and Jessika Truax, Ireland Sargent, and Carissa Garza each finished with one hit.
Abby Covington came away with the loss on the mound, finishing with seven strikeouts and seven hits allowed in eight innings.
On March 23, the story was much different, as the Panthers were able to rattle off 19 runs on 19 hits in just five innings.
“The difference with that is Llano lacks in pitching a little bit this year, so obviously, that works to our advantage,” Brewer said. “Going into that game, it wasn’t going in there to make a run rule. After Salado, it was more of having something to prove to ourselves. It was being able to be disciplined to wait on the ball and still be able to drive it, versus straight up hitting home runs or hitting little dinkers because we’re trying to reach for a ball. It was getting back into our zone, our feel, with everybody working together versus trying to do something on their own.”
Just about everybody got in on the action against Llano, including three hits apiece from Sargent, Dirner, and Garza, two apiece from Covington, Truax, and Faurie, and one each from Cheyenne Floyd, Tannis Brewer, Lauren Macias, and Oehler.
Covington got the win on the mound against Llano, throwing nine strikeouts and allowing only one hit in five innings.
On March 20, the Panthers lost their first district game of the season to Salado in a game that lasted 10 innings. Through the first four, Liberty Hill held a 2-0 lead, but Salado was able to score three runs of their own in the fifth inning. The Panthers scored one in the sixth to tie it, and the game remained tied at 3-3 until Salado was finally able to win it in the bottom of the 10th.
According to Brewer, the answer is that her team simply needs to be more aggressive at the plate, instead of relying on the umpires to bail them out.
“In all honesty, it’s starting to attack the ball a little bit more,” Brewer said. “I think we’re starting to be a little too picky and staying away from certain things. We’re too worried about what the umpire is going to call, versus just going up there and hitting like you know how, showing them what you’ve got.”
Dirner went three-for-five at the plate with two RBIs, Garza went two-for-five, and Sargent and Faurie each finished with a hit.
Floyd pitched 4.67 innings, finishing with eight strikeouts, six walks, and allowing three hits, while Covington came away with the loss, finishing with three strikeouts, three walks, and allowing one hit in 4.33 innings.
After moving the Lampasas game up a day, the Panthers had an interesting Tuesday, moving from the field to the gym and back as rain started and stopped throughout the evening. The fact that Liberty Hill’s field has turf instead of real grass is a big advantage in these scenarios, because bad weather will leave no lasting effects throughout the rest of the week, should it continue to rain.
As they waited for the rain to let up, Brewer took advantage of their downtime by addressing her team and going over what they want their identity to be through the rest of the season.
“Freshman class period, we went out there today and everything was nice, even a little bit warm, and we had a really good practice during the period,” Brewer said. “Then, when the upperclassmen came out there, I’m talking like night and day, it blew in and it got cold and got a lot darker, then it started to come down. We had our little team talk about who we want to be, our identity going forward, and what we need to do the rest of district to get where we want to be.”
On Thursday, the Panthers will try to reestablish that identity at home with a 4 p.m. game against Glenn.