Panthers ride wild first inning to Senior Night triumph
By MIKE SCHOEFFEL
Liberty Hill’s ace Slater Foust has been throwing a slider for about three years now. Over all that time, the pitch has rarely looked more devastating than it did against Lampasas on Monday evening.
Foust, a senior, baffled Badger hitters all night with his late-breaking strikeout pitch, helping his team to a 5-0 victory on Senior Night. In front of a vocal home crowd, Foust struck out eight and allowed just one hit — a slow-roller that scooted through the right side of the infield — in five innings of work.
The Panthers have now won two in a row after beating Lampasas, 11-5, on April 16. With their final two games coming against teams they’ve already beaten, a four game winning streak entering the postseason potentially could be in the cards.
Against Lampasas on Monday, Foust’s top-grade slider took center stage. Badger hitters took weak swing after weak swing, rarely making solid contact on a pitch that appeared to drop out of thin air.
“I learned it on my own. I never really had anyone help me with it,” said Foust. “I threw it my freshman year, but it hurt my arm because I was throwing it wrong. I stopped throwing it for a while, but started back up again my sophomore season. I’ve been using it ever since.”
Foust’s resurrection of the slider has made all the difference. He was in total command from the onset against Lampasas, needing only 60 pitches to work his way through the fifth inning. He was crisp and efficient, allowing only one base runner on a fifth-inning dribbler. The Panther defense was on top of its game, too, committing no errors and making routine plays with confidence and ease.
Freshman Wyatt Cheney closed out the last two innings, striking out five of the six batters he faced.
“Tonight was one of our better games,” said Liberty Hill head coach Mike Kristan. “In terms of offense, defense, and pitching, it was one our more complete games this year.”
The Panthers scored all five runs in a wild first inning.
After back-to-back singles by Connor Thompson and Garrett Wright, Foust followed with a sacrifice fly for the game’s first run. Colt King hit a bloop single left-field to make it 2-0.
A mess of errors on a Zach Smith ground ball brought home Wright and Ryan Ragel (4-0), and the Panthers rounded out the scoring with an RBI single by Cooper Phelan.
All 11 seniors received at least one at-bat before night’s end. That group finished 5-for-18 in its final regular season home game. After the game, Kristan praised this year’s senior class for its cohesiveness and genuine support of one another.
“I think the most unique thing about them is there is 11 of them,” said Kristan. “They’ve stuck around for all four years, I couldn’t run them off. They like playing the game, and they want to do well for each other. This group really cares about each other’s success, and that’s something special.”
Liberty Hill will round out the regular season with games at Burnet and Llano before kicking off postseason play. The date and time for the Panthers’ first round playoff game has yet to be determined.