Softball wins district with come-from-behind win over Taylor

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By Keith Sparks

After a dominant streak of six straight double-digit scoring games for the Panthers, Tuesday night’s tightly contested matchup with the Taylor Ducks was a refreshing surprise to those that were growing tired of watching blowout after blowout.

The Panthers came from behind to beat Taylor 6-3 and secure an undefeated district championship. Tuesday’s win followed a 23-0 shutout over Eastside Memorial the previous Friday.

The Panthers have consistently faced slower pitching throughout district play, but were finally pitted against one of the fastest pitchers in the district on Tuesday, which could prove valuable as they head into the playoffs.

The Panthers struggled to get hits early, going down 3-1 after three innings. In the bottom of the fourth, however, the Panthers caught fire, highlighted by a two-RBI triple from Carissa Garza that turned a 3-3 tie into a 5-3 lead. Shortly thereafter, Garza tagged up on a pop out into right field and scored a run of her own to give Liberty Hill a 6-3 lead, which they’d hold through the final inning.

Head Coach Kristen Brewer said Garza’s triple and Tannis Brewer’s line drive were huge for the Panthers’ momentum.

“That was huge,” Brewer said. “Hitting is contagious. You get a couple people that start hitting the ball, how we’ve done it by getting a runner on base, working for our teammates and advancing runners, doing your job, doing your part, both with Garza and with Tannis hitting that line shot.”

Another not-so-obvious momentum booster came from the Panther defense, who rebounded quickly with a three-up, three-down inning after giving up a double play on offense just a few minutes earlier.

“Also a big momentum deal was when they got us out on a double play and immediately going in and getting the next three batters out,” Brewer said. “Just taking the momentum away when we can and keeping ours going.”

In their final game before the playoffs begin, Brewer said the timing was ideal in facing one of the fastest pitchers in the district after being forced to adjust to slower pitching for the majority of district play.

“The biggest thing, in my opinion, is that we’ve seen slower pitchers for a few games in a row now, and to have one of the fastest pitchers in our district, to face her, it took us a couple innings to get the timing down, but our kids adjusted pretty quickly,” Brewer said. “They’re really good at watching and learning from their teammates’ at-bats, adjusting and learning from what they see.”

Abby Covington pitched a complete game on Tuesday, throwing eight strikeouts while giving up four hits, three walks, and two earned runs in seven innings.

Offensively, Ireland Sargent had a 2-3 performance at the plate with a single, a double, and one RBI. Garza went 1-4 with a triple and two RBIs, Brewer went 1-3 with a single and an RBI, Kinsey Kuhlmann went 1-2 with a double, Lauren Macias went 1-3 with a single and an RBI, and Ashlyn Revere went 1-2 with a single.

Friday’s matchup was the Panthers’ second of the season against Eastside Memorial, who they beat 17-0 in their first matchup. The second matchup was another blowout as the Panthers remained undefeated in district play with a dominant 23-0 win behind 21 hits that lasted only three innings before the game was called.

Cheyenne Floyd pitched all three innings, coming up with five strikeouts while giving up no hits and four walks.

Ashton Dirner led the way offensively, going 3-3 with a walk, a single, a home run and two RBIs. Dylan Lewis went 3-4 with two singles, a double, and three RBIs, Ashlyn Revere went 3-3 with two singles, a triple, and three RBIs, and Sargent went 3-3 with a walk, a single, a double, and two RBIs.

After failing to win district for the first time in years last season, the Panthers came into this season with something to prove. Brewer said that came up often during district play.

“This was big, and we did talk a lot about last year coming into this,” Brewer said. “All it takes sometimes is one game. You can’t go into a game thinking that it’s already won. It’s not on paper, you have to actually put things into action. Especially that second round of district, you’ve got to start playing it like it’s playoffs and have that change of mentality.”

Liberty Hill will play with Wimberley or Bandera in the first round of playoffs, depending on the results of this week’s district meeting.

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