Lady Panthers

Emma Petru (13) and the Lady Panthers defeated Leander, 9-3, in a home district game on Monday afternoon.

Perhaps the left field fence at the Lady Panthers' home field could use a few repairs after Liberty Hill's 9-3 district victory over Leander during a rare Monday afternoon matinee.

After all, three balls that just missed being out of the park by inches off the bats of Addison Shifflett, Aubri Ettinger and Ashton Williams rang loudly off the metal wall for doubles in addition to a pair of three-run homers that cleared it from Kylie Kirk and Lyssa Petru in what was a prodigious power display by the Purple-and-Gold.

Petru's blast in the third inning followed by Kirk's in the fourth blew open what had been a close contest to that point in the proceedings.

Lady Panthers head coach Kristen Brewer said having power up and down the lineup comes in handy in such situations.

“It's a huge advantage when you know that can happen at any time,” she said. “We've always had the power, but now we're just having smart at-bats.”

Reese Albrecht took the ball in the circle for Liberty Hill in her first district action of the season and had little trouble with the Lions' lineup in allowing three runs on three hits in five innings over the course of an 87-pitch performance, while walking three and striking out six.

Brewer lauded Albrecht for the effort.

“Reese did a good job in her first game back,” she said. “She was a little nervous, but she's a competitor no matter where she plays in the field.”

Liberty Hill struck quickly for its first two runs of the afternoon in the bottom of the first when Molly Cochran led off with a single to center and scored on Kirk's double to right before Rylee Slimp came home on a sacrifice fly to center by Petru for a 2-0 lead.

After plating a run in the second, Leander loaded the bases against Albrecht in the third with no outs, but the senior right-hander struck out Taylor Porter, then got Rachel Grundei to line out to third baseman Cadence Wiese, who tagged the runner for the double play to end the inning.

Brewer credited Albrecht's cohesion with catcher Emma Petru as a critical factor in getting out of trouble.

“Emma and Reese worked really well together today,” she said. “Emma's a real go-getter.”

After the Lady Panthers had scored a combined seven runs in the next two innings, it was senior Ashleigh Heiderscheit making a comeback of her own in taking Albrecht's spot in the circle for the final two frames.

Heiderscheit had missed time with an injury, but showed no rust in hurling a pair of scoreless innings to close out the win, giving Brewer a formidable threesome in her rotation, she said.

“Along with (senior) Lyssa (Petru), we have Reese and Ashleigh now,” said Brewer. “Both of them have the ability to use a change-up and they're smart in the circle.”

Kirk led the Lady Panthers' offense in going 3-for-3 with a double, home run and four runs batted in, while Lyssa Petru drove home four runs and Shifflett went 2-for-3 with a double.

Liberty Hill (15-5, 3-0) will next host Lehman on Wednesday at 2 p.m. before playing at Lockhart next Tuesday, then returning home against Hays on March 24.

Brewer said she isn't necessarily surprised by her squad's hot start to the district schedule.

“I've seen it from the beginning of the season,” she said. “How these kids play together, root for their teammates and have each other's backs.”