Lady Panthers set for Playoffs

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By Joseph Garcia

Liberty Hill pitcher Samantha Junkin has been a steady arm for the Lady Panthers and now serves as the team’s closer. (www.ThunderstruckPhotos.com)

With the regular season in the books and a district championship in their pockets, the Liberty Hill Lady Panthers are primed for a quality postseason run beginning Thursday, May 3, when they take on La Vernia in San Marcos.

The Lady Bears (10-2, 19-14) are the champions of District 28-3A and head into Thursday’s Area playoff matchup coming off a 10-0, five-inning win over Somerset in the first round.

Meanwhile, Liberty Hill used a warm-up game against 23-3A District Champs La Grange last Friday to prepare for its first playoff game of the 2012 postseason campaign. The Lady Panthers had a tough outing, dropping the scrimmage 7-1, but Liberty Hill Coach Charice Hankins is not worried saying the seniors are ready for the real deal.

“I think they are feeling good and are excited,” said Hankins. “I think the seniors are ready to prove that it’s their time to shine and that this is their year. It’s time for their hard work to pay off. They’ve put in four years and they’re looking forward to a little bit of excitement.”

Liberty Hill (9-1, 21-7) will be the home team on Thursday and opted for a one-game, winner take all series.

“We’ve got to take care of business,” Hankins said. “Since this is a one-game series we’ve got to go in ready. We are the home team and so we get to bat last. But hopefully we can win it in six innings and don’t have to bat in the seventh inning. We’ve worked hard to get here and we need to play well and smart.”

The Lady Panthers will roll out senior Kourtney Bevers (11-1) to try and stymie the Lady Bears’ bats. For La Vernia, it is expected that sophomore standout Morgan Mikes will take the ball for the Lady Bears. In La Vernia’s win over Somerset, Mikes allowed zero runs on four hits in five innings of work.

Coach Hankins said she believes her team can get to Mikes if they just make the defense work and be patient at the plate. She said La Vernia’s team reminds her of Lampasas with good hitters, a strong catcher and an excellent shortstop.

“We’re just going to have to be patient (at the plate) and be able to drive the ball,” she said. “The last several games we’ve been popping up and not making the defense work real hard. So, we’re going to have to make the defense work and hit the ball harder and get through the ball and make the defense play.”

Some good news for Hankins et al is that the Lady Panthers will finally have their full complement of hitters at their disposal with the return of stalwart catcher Kylie Herman (foot) who’s been sidelined since mid-March. It also means, with Bevers on the mound and Herman behind the plate, that Liberty Hill will field all of its 2012 projected starters for perhaps only the third time all year.

“She’s back,” Hankins said of the senior catcher headed for St. Edwards. “She played Friday night against LaGrange and went 1-3 and caught for seven innings. She caught for two innings against Burnet and did pretty well. I’d say she back to about 90 percent, just in time.”

The first pitch for the Area playoff game vs. La Vernia is set for 7 p.m. at San Marcos High School, located at 2601 East McCarty Lane, San Marcos.

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