Final Score by Chuck Licata
Some would say it‚Äôs ‚Äúdestiny‚ÄĚ for the LHHS softball team to get to the 3A state tournament in two weeks.
Not too many would argue.
Coach Charice Hankins‚Äô Lady Panthers beat what was the #1-ranked team in the state, Sweeny, in two very close and exciting games this past weekend. Liberty Hill won the first game by a 2-1 count in eight innings before scoring four runs in the top of the seventh in Game 2 to earn a 4-0 series-ending victory.
Next up for LHHS ‚Äď the Columbia Lady Roughnecks, who are 24-5 and winners of a 9-6, one-game, winner-take-all Region IV semifinal win over Lampasas. Liberty Hill and Columbia play for the Region IV championship with the winner going to the 3A state softball tournament.
The two teams will meet up in a best 2-of-3 series: Game 1 comes Thursday night, 7:30 p.m.; Game 2 will be played Saturday at 5 p.m.; and, Game 3, if necessary, will come 30 minutes after Game 2. All three games will be played at La Grange High School ‚Äď the same site where LHHS swept Sweeny last weekend.
If the Lady Panthers can beat Columbia, they‚Äôll reach another goal they set at the beginning of this season.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs amazing, these girls are playing their hearts out right now,‚ÄĚ Hankins revealed on the K-MAC Sports postgame show Saturday (May 19). ‚ÄúThese nine seniors (Lorrie Potts, Robin Clarke, Kyli Herman, Paige Holland, Bailey Browder, Kendyl Yandrisovitz, Jessica Green, Kourtney Bevers and Katy Mullan) wanted to be district champions and get to the state tournament. At the beginning of the year their motto was ‚ÄúD.C.S.C.‚ÄĚ as in, ‚ÄėDistrict Champs, then State Championship.‚Äô
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a goal they had and they‚Äôve fought hard for it. Everyone on the squad has participated in our season this year, whether it be on offense or defense or enthusiasm in dugout.‚ÄĚ
Two years ago the Lady Panthers fell to the West Lady Trojans in the then-Region I championship at Temple High School. This season, both West and Liberty hill seemed destined to meet at McCombs Field (on the UT campus) at the state tournament.
There are certainly plenty of ties between the two schools.
Most prominent, of course, is the fact Dr. Robert Hart, the Liberty Hill ISD Superintendent, came to Liberty Hill four years ago from West ISD. And certainly, since Hart got here, there‚Äôs been quite a few West-Liberty Hill matchups.
A little less prominent ‚Äď but important to K-MAC Sports ‚Äď is the West affiliate of K-MAC Sports, the Big Red Sports Network (BRSN). B.J. Walters, whom I worked with in that West-LH series two years ago, heads up BRSN and has both the West softball and baseball teams still alive in the 3A playoffs.
But he and I have been talking all school year about a possible matchup between the Lady Panthers and Lady Trojans at state.
And should Liberty Hill‚Äôs squad make it to McCombs Field in two weeks, the nine seniors will experience a time-honored tradition ‚Äď getting their diplomas handed to them at home plate by Hart.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôd love to have to haul diplomas out to Red McCombs Field,‚ÄĚ Hart stated.
Hankins added: ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs something the kids dream about, and as a coach that‚Äôs something I‚Äôve seen happen and hoped I‚Äôd see happen (to Liberty Hill) sometime.‚ÄĚ
Of course, let‚Äôs keep focused ‚Äď as Hankins would demand ‚Äď on the upcoming series with Columbia, which comes in with a potent offense.
‚ÄúColubmia hits the ball very well,‚ÄĚ Hankins said. ‚ÄúThey also have good pitching; at this point every team left is a good team. We‚Äôre going to take it one step at a time, one game at a time; one game, seven innings, 21 outs. Just take it one at a time.‚ÄĚ