Softball team faces Needville

enna Kieschnick connects with a pitch during Liberty Hill’s bi-district sweep of La Vernia last week. (Alex Rubio Photo)

Jenna Kieschnick connects with a pitch during Liberty Hill’s bi-district sweep of La Vernia last week. (Alex Rubio Photo)

By Lauren Jette

The Lady Panthers had to fight back against La Vernia to claim the bi-district championship at home Saturday after defeating the Lady Bears 3-1 in game two of the series.

Liberty Hill won the first game of the series 6-4 at Del Valle on April 27.

Next up for the Lady Panthers in the area round is Needville, which knocked Liberty Hill out of the regional finals last season. The Lady Jays defeated Columbus in a one winner take all game, 9-6, last week.

Game one will be Friday at 7 p.m., with game two on Saturday at 1 p.m. Both games will be played at Giddings. If the teams split the first two games, a deciding game three will be played 30 minutes after game two Saturday.

“I’m glad we won in two (games) and didn’t have to go to three,” said head coach Charice Hankins.

“I thought we did okay, again we left too many runners on, but you know what? That really says a lot about their pitching and at this level, pitching is going to get better and we’re not going to be able to get six or seven runs every time we play and sometimes it may come down to just two or three runs, so I’m glad we took care of business.

“Our defense played well, our pitching did well and I think our bats did what they needed to do when we needed them.”

After three scoreless innings to start game two, La Vernia started the fourth inning with a double. Liberty Hill pitcher Nicole Thiem got two strikeouts before the runner advanced to third base on a passed ball. La Vernia scored the runner on a base hit to left field to put the first score on the board.

The Lady Panthers answered in the bottom of the inning after Megan Huppee beat out the throw to first base. Jenna Kieschnick followed that up with a base hit. Designated hitter Amber Wiggins’ base hit moved Huppee to third while Kieschnick was thrown out at second base to leave the corners full. Makinley Browder’s single plated Huppee to tie the game.

La Vernia recorded three straight outs at the top of the fifth inning to bring the Lady Panthers back up to bat. Joely Williamson got the rally going for Liberty Hill with a double to left field. Jessica Truax brought Williamson home on a base hit. Kandyn Faurie sent a double flying to left field to plate Truax to take the 3-1 lead and the win and move on to face Needville.

“They knocked us out at the regional finals last year. They did graduate a few people, but they still have a very aggressive offense,” Hankins said of the Lady Jays. “They hit the ball hard and they’re quick. It’s going to be a good game. I think they are definitely a team that knows how to win and I think that we’ve seen them two or three times and it will be a good game.”

Stats from game two: Browder – single, triple, RBI; Williamson – double, run scored; Truax – 3 singles, RBI, run scored; Faurie – double, RBI; Huppee – single, run scored; Kieschnick – single.

Thiem pitched all 7 innings and gave up 3 hits against 10 strikeouts to improve her record to 17-3 on the season.

Liberty Hill moves to 25-7 on the season.

In game one, the Lady Panthers got down early, with a 3-0 deficit after two innings.

They cut that lead down with a score in the third inning and another in the fifth, then exploded for three runs in the sixth inning.

The Lady Bears answered with another run in the bottom of the sixth, but Liberty Hill tacked on a final run in the seventh to clinch the win.

Stats from game one: Browder – single, RBI, 2 runs scored; Sam Barnett – home run, 2 RBI, run scored; Truax – 2 doubles, 2 RBI, run scored; Huppee – RBI; Keischnick – one run scored; Katelyn Sullivan – one run scored.

Thiem pitched the first three innings and recorded 6 strikeouts against 3 runs, while Amber Wiggins pitched the final four innings with 4 strikeouts and 1 run.

The Lady Jays were the runner-up in District 28 with an 8-2 record and are 17-11 overall.

The winner of this series will face the winner of the Salado-Sweeney series in the regional quarterfinals next week.