Streak continues with wins over Salado, Lampasas
By Keith Sparks
The Panthers continued their hot streak with an 11-1 win over Lampasas on April 5 and a 10-0 shutout over Salado on Tuesday.
Tuesday’s win over Salado was their fifth blowout victory in a row, as the Panthers have now outscored opponents 65-1 over their last five district games.
Liberty Hill jumped out on Salado early, scoring four runs in the top of the first inning. Last season, the Panthers made a habit of getting down early and trying to win games in the final innings. This season, Head Coach Kristen Brewer said they’ve made a point of getting aggressive early.
“It’s really good, working through team morale and coming together at the right time,” Brewer said. “Knowing that these guys are able to make the big plays early in the game. I think we talked about last year, I don’t know if you want to call us the cardiac kids or what, but thinking we could take over games in the last inning or couple of innings. We’re learning not to do that this year. They’re really trying to jump out early in the game, and with our bats being as hot as they are right now, trusting in each other that we’re able to do that early and put games away is a big confidence booster for us.”
Both teams went scoreless through the second and third innings until the Panthers had another four-run inning in the top of the fourth, followed by one run in the fifth and one in the seventh to close the door on a shutout.
Although the Panthers have blown out a number of district opponents lately, their 10-0 win over Salado, one of the strongest teams in the district, may have been the most impressive so far.
“If you look back, it’s been a long time since we’ve shutout or scored this many runs on a team like Salado,” Brewer said. “Us and Salado have been pretty back and forth and have played some pretty close games no matter how our teams are doing throughout the season. We’ve always told the girls that with the success we’ve had in the past, people end up playing up against us, no matter what they’ve been doing, so we’ve got make sure we hold our own. They’re a good program, but right now with our bats pretty hot, I think we have that confidence of it doesn’t matter what pitcher you have out there, we’re out here to hit the ball.”
Kinsey Kuhlmann led the way offensively on Tuesday, going 3-4 at the plate with two triples, a single, and four RBIs. Tannis Brewer went 3-4, as well, with two singles and a walk. Ashton Dirner went 2-2 with one RBI, Abby Covington went 2-5 with four RBIs, and Lauren Macias went 2-2 with two singles.
Covington pitched the first three innings for Liberty Hill, striking out five batters while giving up two hits and two walks with zero earned runs. Cheyenne Floyd closed it out, pitching four innings and striking out five batters while giving up one hit and one walk.
Last Friday’s 11-1 win over Lampasas was similar to Tuesday’s blowout, although Lampasas did get on the board first with one run in the top of the second inning. Liberty Hill scored three in the bottom of the second, four in the third, three in the fourth, and one in the fifth while holding Lampasas scoreless the rest of the way to put the finishing touches on the 11-1 district win.
Leanna Limon went 3-4 at the plate with a single, a double, a walk, and one RBI. Ireland Sargent, Dirner, and Tannis Brewer each had two hits in the game, with one of Brewer’s hits being the lone home run of the game. Brewer finished with three RBIs, as well.
Covington got the start on the mound, pitching four innings and striking out four batters while giving up one hit and one walk. Floyd pitched the final inning, to get the save, quickly getting three outs in the field on just 10 pitches.
According to Kuhlmann and Carissa Garza, the Panther coaching staff has taken to alternating pitches in practice, which has forced them to learn how to hit different styles of pitching, whether it’s slow, fast, or has some movement on it. Brewer said it’s something they’ve done before, but they’ve focused more heavily on doing so after seeing the Panthers’ struggles at the plate earlier in the season.
“We have done it in the past, but we’ve concentrated on it a bit more this year because of the fact that we struggled early on,” Brewer said. “Coach Garza, Coach Rodriguez, and myself will sit in and plan for the week, but we’ll also look at the teams that are coming up and what’s going to be better for us. We’re definitely not going to practice a whole week of hitting slow pitching; that’s not what we want to do. To mix a little bit more in, like are we going to be able to sit on a changeup? Just messing with our timing. Having the three of us pitch, being that we can be so different… we’re able to speed it up or slow it down, depending on what we need.”
The Panthers have just two district games left as they prepare to play Eastside Memorial in Austin on Friday and Taylor at home on Tuesday.