By KEITH SPARKS
Liberty Hill softball’s dominance continued last Friday and Saturday, May 5 and 6, as the Lady Panthers battled Athens High School in Waco, winning the best-of-three series in two games.
The Panthers won their first game in a 10-0 shutout, although the game was closer than the final score would make it seem. Through the first three innings, the Panthers held only a 1-0 lead before unleashing their offense in the fourth and fifth innings, scoring three runs in the fourth and six in the fifth.
“We played well,” said Head Coach Charice Hankins. “Our pitching did really, really good, and we didn’t give up very many hits. Our offense was explosive and hit the ball really, really well. Everything was just good. Everybody played together, and we took care of them quick.”
Seniors Joely Williamson and Sam Barnett led the Panthers on the offensive end, as Williamson went two for four at the plate and Barnett finished with a home run and three RBIs. Logan Oehler played a solid game, offensively, as well, going two for three at the plate with two RBIs.
Amber Wiggins pitched a complete game for Liberty Hill, giving up three hits and no earned runs in five innings while finishing with 10 strikeouts. Wiggins is now an incredible 20-0 this season as a starting pitcher.
The Panthers’ second game against Athens was much the same, as the Panthers came away with a 14-1 victory in only four and a half innings, due to the mercy rule. In game two, Liberty Hill jumped on Athens more quickly than the first game, going up 5-0 in the first inning. They followed that up with two runs in the second, one in the third, and six in the fourth to put the game away.
Abby Covington got the win on the mound for the Panthers, pitching a complete game and giving up only two hits for her 12th victory of the season. Covington is now 12-1 as a starter this season.
Barnett, Williamson, and Kinsey Kuhlmann led the Panthers offensively, as Barnett went three for four with two doubles and two RBIs, Williamson went two for two with a double and two RBIs, and Kuhlmann went two for three with three RBIs.
The first two rounds, according to Hankins, have gone a lot like their district season went, with average pitching and little competition for the number-one state-ranked Liberty Hill Lady Panthers. The third round, however, should be a much more difficult challenge.
“This next round won’t be that way,” Hankins said of the Panthers’ upcoming matchup with Waco Robinson. “This next round is going to be pretty tough. That’s why we played such a tough preseason, because we knew our district wasn’t going to be very challenging. I mean, there were some challenging games. Salado and Lampasas, and then Llano gave us a good game, but the pitching has been pretty average. I think maybe this next round will get us back to the level we were playing at in our tournaments.”
Liberty Hill will take on Waco Robinson at Georgetown High School this Friday, May 12. The first game will take place at 6 p.m., and the second will follow at 8 p.m. The third game, if necessary, will take place on Saturday, May 13, at a time that has not yet been decided.
“They’ve got two or three pitchers—two lefties and a righty. One of them throws hard, and one of them throws a lot of stuff,” Hankins said of Waco Robinson’s bullpen. “They’re going to be tough. They’re a good hitting team. We know they’ll be the best hitting team we’ve seen since our preseason, I think. It’s going to be a good battle. I think, on paper, they look a lot like us.”
Waco Robinson is 19-6, overall, and advances to the third round of the playoffs after beating Mexia and La Grange. The Rockets, according to MaxPreps.com, are ranked 68th in the state at the 4A level.