By Merle Bertrand, Sportswriter
The Liberty Hill Lady Panthers defeated the Burnet Lady Bulldogs 12-3 at home Thursday night (April 21).
Unlike the baseball team (that was also playing Burnet across town), Coach Charice Hankins’ Lady Panthers (9-1 in 25-3A, 24-8 overall) had already clinched the District 25-3A championship. The Lady Bulldogs (6-4 in 25-3A, 22-12-1 overall), meanwhile, were already locked into the playoffs as a #2 seed. So on paper, the game was utterly meaningless.
Tell that to LHHS catcher Kyli Herman, who dove hard to her right to snag a pop-foul ball with the Lady Panthers already leading by nine runs in the seventh inning.
Tell that to right fielder Bailey Browder, who dropped what would have been an inning-ending fly ball that led to three unearned runs. She bounced back to go 3-for-3 with a walk, an RBI, three runs scored, and – fittingly – notched the final out of the game on a fine catch.
Tell that to pitcher Paige Holland who – making her first start in several weeks – shut down the Lady Bulldogs on just three hits to get the win.
Finally, tell that to all the Lady Panthers seniors who played their last regular season softball game on their windswept home field on Senior Night.
To paraphrase ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale: “This was Burnet, baby!”
“I guess the last four years, our last game has always been Burnet and it’s always a big game,” confirmed Hankins. “I know that Tuesday night, the girls knew that we had clinched the district championship and it was all ours and we weren’t going to share it with anybody. But we went into the (Burnet) game knowing that this was a game that we wanted to win.”
It didn’t take the Lady Panthers long to break out on top. They scored four runs in the second inning. Then, after Burnet answered with their three unearned runs in the third-inning, the Panthers surged to six runs in the fourth-inning to take command. Two insurance runs in the fifth inning closed out the scoring and the Bulldogs.
In the meantime, the Lady Panthers’ defense and Holland shut down the Burnet bats.
“I think our defense played well,” Hankins agreed. “I think Holland did a great job. She got into a groove after the first inning and started settling down a little bit and put the ball over where she needed to.”
Several players contributed for the Lady Panthers, including Bailey Potts (3-for-5, two RBI), Kourtney Bevers (2-for-4, one RBI and three runs) and Paige Lafferty (2-for-4, two runs) all contributed to Liberty Hill’s fifteen-hit outburst.
The Lady Panthers will next play a warm-up game against Rogers on Friday, April 29 with the playoffs to follow.
“It was a good game,” Hankins stated. “Burnet and Liberty Hill have a long history and it’s always a good game and it’s always good ball. I thought tonight, we did a good job.
“Burnet always play(s) hard and I’m glad to come out with the win.”
In other words, it will always matter when it’s Burnet.