The third time wasn’t a charm for Liberty against South Effingham.
The first time the South Effingham Mustangs met the Liberty County High Panthers on the diamond this season, the Mustangs needed four innings to win, 20-4. The second time, Liberty didn’t have enough players to field a team due to disciplinary issues and lost, 7-0, by forfeit. On Tuesday, Liberty welcomed the Mustangs back to Panther field, and while the Panthers made a game of it for the first two innings, the Mustangs once again stole the thunder and won, 16-3, in five innings.
The Mustangs started banging hits and notching runs in the first inning. With runners on first and second, a Mustang nailed a deep shot to left field to drive in two runs. Another shot that almost cleared the center-field fence gave them another run. The Mustangs scored another run off an error to close the first inning up, 4-0.
Panther batter Gary Albertson hit a single, and Curtis Michalowicz hit a low ball to center to get on base. Both runners advanced on a bad pitch, and Jacari Roberts reached first to load the bases. Panther J.T. Evans hit a two-run single to narrow the deficit.
In the second inning, the Mustangs faced two outs but managed to add four runs due to infield throwing errors by the Panthers. Liberty had an opportunity to bring in runs in the second inning, but with the bases loaded and two outs, a flyout to center field ended the threat.
The Mustangs added another four runs in the third inning to extend their lead to 12-2.
The Panthers added another run, but South Effingham kept the hits and runs coming.
Liberty head coach Joel Moody said Vince Smith and Parker Neely made stellar defensive plays in the outfield in the effort.
Despite the loss, the Panthers still had something to celebrate as they honored Bailey Kitchings, the one senior on their team.
Surrounded by his siblings and parents, Kitchings received a team ball and was praised by Moody for his contributions during the past few seasons. Kitchings thanked his family and honored the memory of his friend and former teammate, Joe Watkins. Kitchings said Watkins taught him the game and made baseball challenging and fun. Watkins died following in a car accident in November 2011.
Michalowicz pitched the first innings, and then Kitchings was tapped to take the mound for his final home game.
“Bailey gave his best effort pitching in relief but struggled to get outs partially because we didn’t field a couple of ground balls that could’ve been outs,” Moody said. “He still wanted to compete … when I pulled him from the game. I appreciate his desire very much.”
Albertson pitched two innings of scoreless relief.
Liberty is 2-12 overall and 0-8 in Region 3A-AAAA going into today’s action, when the Panthers will finish their regular season by playing Wayne County at 6 p.m. in Jesup.