Panthers turn things around after loss

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Lynsey Mitchell dives to tag out a runner during Liberty Hill’s win against Taylor on Tuesday. Mitchell and the Panthers have turned around their play after losing the prior week. (Kathy Canady Photo)

Lynsey Mitchell dives to tag out a runner during Liberty Hill’s win against Taylor on Tuesday. Mitchell and the Panthers have turned around their play after losing the prior week. (Kathy Canady Photo)

By TAYLOR GRAFFT

A lot has changed for the Lady Panthers since last week’s 2-1 road loss to Burnet in extra innings. Liberty Hill is learning how to deal with adversity as the team looks to finish out their district schedule with nothing short of a title.

The good news for Liberty Hill fans is that Burnet’s 2-0 loss to Lampasas last Friday has forced the title race to be wide open again.

The bad news is the Panthers end their schedule with the top three opponents in their district. A road game against Salado, a road game against Lampasas, and a home game against Burnet.

Liberty Hill has already proven they’re capable of beating the Eagles (10-1) and Badgers (1-0) at home, but that won’t matter unless the Panthers can complete the sweep, starting with Salado on Friday.

The Panthers are also dealing with an injury to one of their top players, senior Kallen Floyd. Liberty Hill’s starting second baseman has been dealing with a reoccurring back injury since last season, and last week’s 10-inning loss to the Bulldogs caused Floyd enough pain that Coach Charice Hankins decided to hold her player out until they can figure out a solution.

“She’s really been hurt since last year,” Hankins said. “It’s reoccurring and they’re trying to find out what’s going on. She’s been playing in pain. We’ve been communicating with her really well. She’ll come into every game and tell us how much pain she’s feeling. Sometimes she says she can hit, but she can’t play defense. The constant moving just puts too much pressure on her. The 10 innings (against Burnet) really took a lot out of her so we’re resting her.”

Floyd signed her letter of intent to play for Texas State next Fall and bats third in the Panthers’ lineup.

Liberty Hill vs Taylor

Seniors Lynsey Mitchell and Sam Junkin both homered in the Liberty Hill’s 6-2 victory over the Taylor Ducks to help their team improve to 19-3 overall and 6-1 in district.

“I thought we hit the ball hard,” Hankins said. “I thought (Taylor’s) defense played really well and took away some hard shots at the wall.”

Mitchell finished the game with two RBIs. One came off the solo shot in the first inning, the other a double in second inning that scored senior Baylie Bevers.

Mitchell has now hit five home runs this season, while Junkin has hit four.

Junior Nicole Thiem secured her ninth win of the season pitching for the Panthers. Thiem pitched four innings and struck out six batters, and allowed two runs on five hits and one walk.

Junkin relieved the starter in the fifth inning and struck out three batters, and allowed no runs on two hits and one walk.

Junior Megan Huppee scored the Panthers go-ahead run in the third inning in large part to some heads-up base running. Huppee stole third base following a pop out in foul territory by Bevers. A few pitches later Huppee came home on a wild pitch to give Liberty Hill a 3-2 lead.

In the fifth inning senior Kelly McKinzey drew a base on balls and Junkin brought her home in the next at-bat on a dinger to left field.

In the next at-bat Huppee doubled to center field on a hard grounder that hit the wall. Bevers drove in her teammate on a base hit to left to give the Panthers their final run of the game.

Liberty Hill vs Llano

Liberty Hill defeated Llano on the road last Friday 11-0 in only five innings of play. The Panthers took advantage of four errors by the Yellowjackets, and scored runs in all five innings on 12 hits.

The Panthers got off to a fast start by scoring four runs in the first inning. They went on to add one run in both the second and third. Then capped off the game by scoring two in the fourth and three in the fifth to end the game early.

Huppee and Mitchell both hit two-run homers in the victory. Junkin also finished the game with two RBIs.

Junkin (10-3) picked up her tenth win of the season by pitching a complete game shutout. She allowed only one hit and struck out eight batters.

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