Liberty County High School pitchers gave up seven walks against Ware County to help the visiting Gators to a 10-2 win Tuesday night.
Panthers starter Brandon Whitmore gave a solid effort for the home team through the first three innings. He had given up only one walk before Liberty gave the Gators three free passes in a row to break open a close contest in the fourth inning.
“You just can’t walk as many people as we did tonight against Ware. Ware hit the ball and Whitmore did a pretty decent job for three innings but the walks just hurt us,” Liberty County Panthers head coach David Samuel said.
Whitmore struck out the first Ware County batter he faced and then the Gators went quietly in order in the top of the first.
In the bottom of the first, Joe Watkins slapped a ball to center field with two outs to give the Panthers their first base runner of the game. Trey Sikes followed with a two-out double off the wall in right center, but Watkins was thrown out at the plate trying to score.
Ware began the second inning with a single, and the runner moved around the bases on a steal and sacrifice. The Gators took a 1-0 lead off of a wild pitch.
After a leadoff base hit in the bottom of the second, Liberty’s baserunner was thrown out at second on a steal attempt.
Ware retired the next two Panthers hitters.
Trailing, 1-0, in the bottom of the third with two outs, Whitmore reached first on an error by the Ware first baseman. After Cameron Harris walked, Watkins hit a screaming shot into the gap for an RBI double to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead going into the fourth inning.
But Liberty’s lead didn’t last long as Ware took advantage of the walks issued by Liberty and added some potent offense, including a home run and consecutive base hits in the fourth inning, to go up, 9-2.
The Gators added a run in the fifth.
Watkins led the Panthers at the plate, going 2 for 3 with a single, double and the Panthers’ only two RBIs. Sikes was 2 for 3 with a double and a single. Antonio Smith was 1 for 3 with a single.
“One positive for us tonight was the fact that we have done a much better job at playing defense in the field. We only gave up one error tonight, and I am pleased with that,” Samuel said.
Liberty still continues to struggle at the plate.
The Panthers had five hits against Ware County but have had only 13 hits in the last four games for an average of four hits per outing.
Samuel said it isn’t due to a lack of practice.
“We work on hitting daily in practice. We normally hit the ball well in practice; it’s something that we have got to learn to translate to games. Situational hitting is really important for us. To be able to go into a game and hit the ball well with runners in scoring position is really important for us right now,” Samuel said.
The loss dropped Liberty to 3-6 overall and 1-3 in Region 2A-AAAA.
“The most important thing for us right now is to be able to put together a complete game. We are just getting parts of a game right now, like the defensive game we had tonight. We need to combine that with hitting and pitching,” Samuel said.
Liberty takes on perennial Region 2A-AAAA power Glynn Academy on Friday.