Panthers voyage West, return with 2 wins


By Paul Livengood

The Panthers headed out to West, Texas over the weekend to take part in the team’s second tournament of the season, hosted by the West Trojans.

Liberty Hill broke .500 in the tournament, winning two of their three tournament games. The Panthers defeated Waco Connally 8-3 and West 4-2, but lost in the final matchup against Waco Robinson 2-7.

“We had a good weekend, but still have work to do,” Head Coach Michael Kristan said of his team’s performance.

Flake earned the win on the mound for the Panthers against Waco Connally on Thursday, and added some run support for himself by recording a sac-fly RBI. The Cadets’ three runs on the Panthers were all unearned, scored off of errors or defensive mistakes, as opposed to offensive production.

The offense was flowing for the Panthers against the Cadets, in spite of their defensive flaws, helping them secure the 8-3 victory.

Connor Thompson recorded a double and scored a run. Garrett Wright and Turner Gryseels added to the production at the plate with a base hit and an RBI each. Garrett Pogue and Damian Natividad both got on base by grounding into a fielder’s choice.

The tournament host, West, is the third-ranked team in UIL 3A baseball, and were the Panthers’ second matchup of the weekend. Chandler Freeman pitched six and two-thirds innings against the 3A juggernaut, recording six strikeouts and only walking two batters.

Freeman followed in Flake’s footsteps, shining both at the mound and the plate. In addition to his six strikeouts, Freeman went three for four at the plate, including two doubles and a run scored. Wright, Gryseels, and Thompson all hit doubles against the Cadets, as well. Gryseels was a perfect three for three at the plate with two RBIs.

Jacob McCaleb replaced Freeman in the seventh inning, with a 4-2 lead, for the final out. With a runner on second, the game-tying run at the plate, and facing the Trojans three-hole hitter, McCaleb forced a routine pop-up to the first baseman and was awarded with the save.

Next, Liberty Hill met its toughest match in the West tournament. The Panthers squared off with Waco Robinson, who is one of the top ranked teams in the 4A division.

“Robinson is the fourth-ranked team in 4A, and they played like it,” Kristan said.

The pitching and batting success Liberty Hill had in the first two games simply didn’t translate to the third game against the Rockets.

This is where the Panthers showed the struggles and points of improvement Kristan eluded to.

“Getting hits when runners are in scoring position and being more dominant in the strike zone on the mound,” Kristan said of what his team needs to improve upon.

The Panthers entered the West tournament with a record of 6-2 and headed home with an 8-3 season record.

The team will travel one more time before playing its next home game. The Panthers will attend their third and final tournament of the 2017 season: the Travis County Tournament at Manor High School. The lineup of opponents for Liberty Hill includes St. Andrews, LBJ Austin, and the tournament host, Manor.

Manor and Liberty Hill have already met on the baseball diamond once this season. In a scrimmage to open the 2017 season, the Panthers defeated the Mustangs at home 15-0. The two will cross paths again in the final game of the tournament on March 11 at 11:30 a.m.

Liberty Hill will face St. Andrews on March 9 at 9 a.m. and LBJ Austin on March 10 at 9 a.m.