Panthers come from behind to defeat Llano

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By Lance Catchings

The Liberty Hill varsity baseball team took home a hard-fought 7-6 come-from-behind victory over Llano Tuesday night. Liberty Hill led the game 3-2 until the top of the fifth inning when multiple errors cost them the lead as they fell behind 5-3. Down 5-4 in the bottom of the sixth with two outs, the Panthers let the bats rip.

Grant Ornelaz had an RBI single down the first base line, followed by Pudge Carlisle’s two-RBI triple to give the Panthers the lead. Liberty Hill collected 10 hits in the win. Head Coach Michael Kristan said despite the tough fifth inning, the team played well.

“Overall, we played well, but once again like we have had all year, one bad inning defensively and you have to climb your way out of it,” Kristan said. “I thought besides the mistakes we made in the top of the fifth, we played well. We did all that hitting with two outs, so that’s pretty impressive. It is good to get out there and compete at the plate like that. Llano played us well and they didn’t make many mistakes. We just went out there and hit the ball hard in the last inning to overcome our deficit.”

Cole Alexander started the game on the mound for the Panthers. He allowed two hits and five runs over four and two-thirds innings, striking out six. Senior Garrett Pogue relieved Alexander and got the win on the mound. He pitched two and one third of an inning, allowing one run on one hit. He struck out five and walked one.

“Cole pitched well for us tonight,” Kristan said. “He got up over 100 pitches so we had to take him out. They didn’t hit him real hard and he walked a few guys, but I thought he played pretty good.”

Alexander said he felt like he got a cold start but warmed up as the game went on.

“I came out a little slow in the first two innings, wasn’t feeling too good,” Alexander said. “If I am being honest, the last inning I pitched is when I probably felt the best. We had a few rough innings defensively that got us down, but I knew if I kept throwing strikes we would pull through.”

Alexander has faith in his teammates and said the rally showed what they are capable of.

“We have had some bad games this district season, but the good games have been really good,” he said. “If we can keep playing the really good games, then we will have a chance. Coming from behind tonight shows that we are not going to give up. We talked in the dugout tonight and got back up and were ready to go. We want to go out and get these last three wins and head into playoffs with four wins in a row under our belt.”

Ornelaz, who had a triple and an RBI single to help rally, said the team just has to stay focused on their task.

“I thought we played pretty well tonight,” Ornelaz said. “We had some shaky innings, but it shows we can bounce back and play good baseball. I hit the triple, but I thought if I would have hit more towards the 366 in center field it would have been an inside the park home run, so I had to hold up.”

Ornelaz said his main focus when at the plate is to just do his part for his team.

“I just try to go out and do my job,” he said. “Coach tells me to put the ball in play and try to use my speed, so that’s what I try to do. When we get the bats going, we can be really dangerous. Everyone just has to stay hot in the dugout and keep talking. When we’re talking, we tend to string hits together. We just have to keep playing and not let up.”

On Friday, the Panthers were unable to score a run in a 7-0 loss to Salado at home. Kory Schmidt went three for three at the plate, Rowen Guerra went two for three at the plate with a walk, and Ornelaz was walked once, as well. That was the only action the Panther offense saw all night.

Wyatt Cheney got the start on the mound, pitching five innings, striking out six batters and giving up seven runs on six hits. Pogue pitched one inning, as well, striking out one batter.

Liberty Hill currently sits in third place in district 19-4A. The Panthers are on the road Friday night against Lampasas and April 24 against Leander Glenn. They will play their final regular season home game April 27 when they host Burnet on senior night.

Lance@LHIndependent.com

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