The diamond at Liberty County High School was prepped earlier than usual Friday afternoon to accommodate a region double –header. And Liberty made a clean sweep, taking down Burke County 6-3 and closing down Baldwin 5-1 to improve to 6-4 in Region 3-AAA.
In game one, Panther Joe Watkins took the mound and, as Panther coach David Samuel said, he got the job done.
"He did everything he needed to do," Samuel said. He didn’t throw too many pitches and he got the job done."
Watkins chalked up ten strikeouts, despite having some control issues early in the game. Defense also was responsive to balls the Bears were able to put in play.
The coach said putting the ball in play, making hits and a few Burke County errors aided his team to victory against the Bears who have now fallen to sixth in the region.
After a quick break the boys were back on the field against Baldwin.
Dylan Connelly started the game and pitched for six and a third innings. Brandon Whitmore came in and finished for the save.
In the bottom of the first inning, Panther Cameron Harris got a hit and made first base when the Braves pitcher overthrew the first baseman. Harris then stole second and Eddie Chipple brought in the run.In the bottom of the third inning, Antonio Smith banged one out to the centerfield wall for a double. Connelly slammed one to the left center for a score and a triple. Harris hit a shot out to center field, bringing in the Panthers’ third run.
The Panthers stayed up 3-0 until the top of the fifth. The Braves scored a run, but Connelly and the fielders held other runners.
Struggling in the sixth inning, Connelly was relieved by Whitmore.
The Panthers added two more runs in the bottom of the sixth, on a left-field, line drive double by Watkins and in the seventh inning Whitmore struck out two batters and the defense did the rest to close the game with the 5-1 win.
"We didn’t hit the ball that well. We struck out a lot," Samuel said about game two. "We swung at a lot of bad pitches and let a lot of good fastballs go by without swinging. I think our guys were a little bit tired from playing a double-header."
On Friday the Liberty boys will host Richmond Hill. It’s a game that has big implications in the final region standings and playoff seeds.
The Wildcats still have four region games to play while the Panthers have two. The coach said his team needs to make a big statement and do so this week.
"That’s a huge game for us because they are ahead of us right now and we already beat them once," he said. "We do want to beat them again because we don’t want there to be a tie going on. We want to be in the playoffs but we don’t want to be fourth. We want to be third or see if we can work our way up to second place somehow."