Panthers one win from UIL State Tournament

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By Lance Catchings

DRIPPING SPRINGS – The Liberty Hill baseball team opened its regional final playoff series with an 8-2 victory over La Vernia Thursday night in game one, leaving the Panthers one win from the UIL State Tournament. Liberty Hill has a chance to close out the series sweep in game two Saturday at 1 p.m.
Despite the large margin of victory those in attendance saw a much closer ball game than the score entails.
“The score doesn’t tell the whole story,” said head coach Steven Hutcherson. “8-2 was the final but it felt tighter throughout we scored some runs in the seventh inning to give ourselves some cushion. It was a hard-fought game on both ends and both teams felt like they were in it. Both teams had opportunities and both teams missed some opportunities. We happened to take advantage of a few more scoring opportunities and put some guys in scoring position.”
After a scoreless first inning the Panthers got the scoring started in the top of the second. After a leadoff walk by senior catcher Kory Schmidt, senior pitcher Wyatt Cheney hit a triple to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead. Senior Pudge Carlisle later hit a sacrifice fly to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead at the end of the second inning.
The Panthers added another three runs in the top of the third. Ryan Leary singled and stole second. Senior Cole Alexander then singled to score Leary. Schmidt then doubled to score Alexander for the 4-0 lead. Cheney hit a single, Carlisle walked followed by a Jackson Knox walk that scored the third run in the top of the third for a 5-0 lead.
La Vernia picked up a run in the bottom of the inning and another in the bottom of the fifth and the score remained 5-2 until the top of the seventh. The Panthers scored three runs to give themselves some breathing room and the eventual 8-2 final.
The Panthers gathered 10 hits in the win while playing perfect defensively and committing no errors. Cheney pitched all seven innings allowing seven hits, two runs and striking out seven. La Vernia had seven hits in the game, while committing one error.
The win sets up a pivotal match up Saturday at 1 p.m. If the Panthers can pull out a victory, they will earn a trip to the baseball state tournament for the first time in school history.
“Saturday will start with how well we can pitch and play defense,” Hutcherson said.
“La Vernia has a good offense and we have to find a way to minimize their baserunners. The pitcher they will probably throw is good and we will have to compete and find ways to get on base. We will have to find ways to try to score and get a lead. La Vernia did a good job in their last series in game two of building a good lead early in the game. We want to jump out and give ourselves a lead or at least keep it tight that way we give ourselves a chance in the end.”
Game three of the series will be played 30 minutes after game two on Saturday if necessary.

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