Softball gets 5-4 win over Caldwell, prepares for district opener vs. Burnet

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By Keith Sparks

With the boys’ basketball team making an appearance in the State Championship over the weekend, the Panther softball team opted to move a game against Caldwell that had previously been scheduled for March 8 to March 7. Caldwell agreed to the rescheduling, and the Panthers won by a final score of 5-4.

Liberty Hill jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, which Head Coach Kristen Brewer attributed to their ability to play “small ball” effectively, taking advantage of their speed and baserunning.

“We scored right off the bat, doing really well playing small ball, taking advantage of our speed and getting on the board pretty quickly,” Brewer said.

The Panthers held Caldwell scoreless through the first two innings, but Caldwell was able to rattle off three runs in the top of the third, which Brewer said had a lot to do with questionable umpiring, though she explained it was questionable for both teams.

A tight strike zone made things difficult for pitchers as they were unable to buy a strike, forcing them to either walk batters or throw easily hittable balls down the middle of the strike zone.

“For both teams, unfortunately, the umpire kind of got really tight,” Brewer said. “Like I said, for both teams, because they kind of went through the same issue where you could not find a strike, no matter where you threw it. As long as they weren’t swinging, it was kind of like, what do you do? We had an inning like that and they went through the same thing.”

Down 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth inning, it was the Panthers’ turn to take advantage of such a situation, which they did. Brewer said her message to her team at the time was to not leave the game in the umpire’s hands by allowing him to dictate who gets on base, and to instead remain aggressive at the plate.

“You’ve just got to mentally come out on top, like I was telling our girls, it doesn’t really matter what he’s calling if we have the ability to hit the ball,” Brewer said. “Don’t leave it in anybody else’s hands. That’s when we started hitting it at the end.”

Liberty Hill rattled off three runs of their own in the bottom of the fifth inning, taking a 5-3 lead into the sixth. The Panthers allowed only one run over the final three innings, holding onto a 5-4 victory.

Carissa Garza led the way at the plate by going 3-4 with three singles, followed by Ashton Dirner, who went 2-3 with a single, a triple, and two RBIs. Lauren Macias went 2-3 at the plate, as well, hitting two singles and coming up with one RBI. Abby Covington went 1-2 at the plate with a solo home run, and Leanna Limon went 1-4 with a single and an RBI.

Covington also pitched 2.67 innings, striking out four batters while giving up three hits, two walks, and three earned runs. Cheyenne Floyd closed things out, pitching 4.33 innings and striking out five batters while giving up four hits, three walks, and one earned run.

Earlier this season, Brewer talked about how important it will be for her team to close out games, not just by being clutch at the plate, but by staying focused on defense. So far, they’ve done well in that regard.

“We’ve had a lot of help with our defense, as far as we’ve had more double plays this year than I can remember in a while,” Brewer said. “Our defense has been able to bail us out a lot. It’s always being prepared. You can go through a slow inning here and there, but when the ball is hit to you, it can’t be a shock or surprise. Our kids, it’s been always be ready. It’s more of a challenge on defense, like ‘I dare you to hit it to me.’ With that mentality, it’s been able to get us out of a lot of situations that we might find ourselves in.”

After their final non-district game against La Vernia on Wednesday, the Panthers will begin district play on Friday at home against Burnet. Brewer said apart from finding “that consistency at the bottom of the lineup,” her team is right where she wants it to be.

“I do think it’s starting to pull together a little more, but we’re still trying to find that consistency in the bottom of our lineup,” Brewer said. “With that being said, we’re still in a good spot with everybody playing together, everybody on the same page. The motto this whole year has been, ‘Win the inning,’ and that’s what we’re trying to do: win innings one at a time. Not just offensively, but defensively, as well, being behind each other and picking each other up when we can. Making big plays in the pressure moments, but also when there’s not pressure. Don’t wait until the last minute.”

The Panthers play the district opener at home against Burnet at 6:45 p.m. Friday.

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