Panthers rally for 10-2 victory over Burnet, will face Caldwell in bi-district playoff


By Lance Catchings

The Liberty Hill Panthers wrapped up the regular season with a 10-2 district win over Burnet at home Friday night. The regular season finale also served as senior night to the four Panthers who will graduate at the end of the school year.

Head Coach Michael Kristan said it was a good night for his team to come together for a solid win.

“I felt like we played well tonight,” Kristan said. “We did a lot of things right and we had a lot of players participate and do good things for us. Overall, we did what we had to do. We ran the bases well and (Garrett) Pogue pitched a good game on Senior Night to keep Burnet off balance. A lot of people contributed on offense and that is a big plus going into the playoffs.”

Wyatt Cheney got the scoring started in the bottom of the first inning. After being walked and stealing second, Cheney was brought in on an RBI single by Pudge Carlisle to make the score 1-0. Cameron Barcalow, who was pinch running for pitcher Garrett Pogue, scored in the bottom of the second inning to give Liberty Hill the 2-0 advantage. In the third inning, Reece Hudson tripled on a pop fly to left field and later scored on an error at first base to give the Panthers a 3-0 advantage.

It looked as if Liberty Hill would cruise to the win, but Burnet still had some fight left. In the top of the fourth, a runner scored on an error by Hudson to make the score 3-1. In the top of the fifth, after tagging up, another Bulldog scored to bring them within one run, 3-2. That is as close as Burnet came. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Liberty Hill exploded for seven runs to blow the game wide open.

With one out, Hudson doubled to start the bats. Matthew Hilbrich singled, followed by Cole Alexander, who reached first on a throwing error by Burnet to load the bases. Pogue singled to score Hudson, and the Panthers found themselves in a groove. Burnet was overmatched with the flurry of runners rounding the bases. Three walks and a few steals later, the Panthers had built an eight-run lead.

Kristan was extremely pleased with the team’s base running in the win. He also praised his senior pitcher. Pogue allowed just two hits and two runs over five innings while striking out four. Cheney pitched two innings in relief.

“We did everything in the fifth inning that we needed to do to produce runs and get the ball in play,” Kristan said. “We had good base running on passed balls and wild pitches. We did a lot of good things on the bases tonight. Pogue did a great job for us, and he has done a great job for us all season. Early in the year, he told me he wanted to pitch and didn’t think he would ever pitch for us. He’s won three or four district ball games for us and saved another, so that is a real good job on his part. He had never pitched for us, but he pitched a lot during the summer. These kids work extremely hard and get a lot of reps during the summer. He came out here and worked hard in the bullpen and in preseason scrimmages. He earned the spot, that’s for sure.”

The Panthers end their regular season with a 13-8 record, overall, and an 8-4 record in District 19-4A. Their district record earned them a third-place finish and a berth to the 2018 UIL State Playoffs.

“I am pleased with how we wrapped up the end of the regular season,” Kristan said. “We didn’t lay down and we kept playing hard all year. We knew we were in the playoffs, so sometimes you worry the players might goof around, and we did not do that. We hit the ball well and ran the bases well.”

Liberty Hill will face Caldwell in a three-game bi-district playoff series Thursday and Friday. Game one will be played Thursday at Caldwell High School at 7 p.m. Games two and three will be a double header Friday at Liberty Hill starting at 5:30 p.m.