By Richard Ewing
It seems like such a long time ago when the Lady Panthers kicked off their Bi-District series against Bridge City. Five weeks later, the team was in the Class 4A state tournament.
After a nail biter against Bullard in the semifinal, the Lady Panthers took the field for the last time this season on Saturday, June 5. All the hard work and grueling hours paid off as the the Liberty Lady Panthers won the 2021 UIL 4A State Championship game 10-3 against the Corpus Christi Calallen Lady Wildcats at Red and Charline McCombs Field in Austin, Texas.
Calallen jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first on an RBI single by Centerfielder Maddy Flores. The Lady Wildcats added a run in the top of the third on a solo HR by Alaunah Almaraz to left field. That would be all the scoring for CC Calallen.
Liberty came roaring back in the bottom of the third with five runs, and never looked back. After a fielder’s choice, infield single, and a walk, the bases were loaded for LP senior Mikaelah Burkland, committed to play next season for Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches. Burkland smashed a ball under the glove of shortstop Reagan Tannill that brought in the first two runs of the game for the Lady Panthers.
Freshman Catcher Hollie Thomas plated two more runs with a single between first and second. The inning’s final run came after a Reese Evan single, and a throwing error allowed Kamden Chandler to score.
A lightning delay stopped the game after the top of the fourth inning and caused a 2 hour 20 minute delay. When play resumed, Liberty’s bats had not cooled off, with the Lady Panthers picking up two more runs in the fourth inning. Eastern Illinois University commit Jaylen Prichard led the inning off with a double down the right-field line. After Maci Beam dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move Prichard to second, Kaci West smashed a double into the right-centerfield fence. The double scored Prichard. Kaci West scored on a wild pitch from Breanna Ford.
After four innings, Liberty led 7-3. Liberty would add another run in the fifth inning and two more runs in the sixth and led Calallen 10-3 after 6. Kaci West dominated Lady Cat batters giving up only three hits and striking out 11 in 7 innings. Liberty’s defense was spectacular, making slick plays to back up their pitcher.
Liberty picked up their second state title in four years with the 10-3 victory. Kaci West, who will pitch for the Baylor Lady Bears next year, was named State Tournament MVP. For the second time, West got MVP honors in the State Tournament as a freshman in 2018. Hollie Thomas was 2-4 with 3 RBI. Kaci West, Mikaelah Burkland, and Jaylen Prichard end their Lady Panthers career, winning two state titles.
After the game the all tournament team players were announced by the UIL with Liberty taking five honors. This is the second State Championship win for the Lady Panthers, the first being in 2018.
Conference 4A-All Tournament Team
Pitcher – Kaci West, Senior, Liberty
Catcher – Hollie Thomas, Freshman, Liberty
Third Base – Jaylen Prichard, Senior, Liberty
Shortstop – Kamdyn Chandler, Freshman, Liberty
Outfield – Bailee Slack, Freshman, Liberty
“This has been a well deserved and successful season for the Lady Panthers. This is the 2nd championship for the seniors having won 2018. We would like to congratulate all the coaches, administrators, media crew, parents and family, and most especially the Liberty Panther Fans that encouraged and supported these young ladies this season,” according to a statement from Liberty High School.
In addition to the team, the persons who made this success possible are Head Coach Karen Slack, Assistance Coach Joe Slack, Assistance Coach Katherine McAdams, Athletic Director Chad Taylor, Principal Benicia Bendele, Superintendent Dr. Cody Abshier, Ross Norwood who provided play-by-play, Joe Roberts who provided commentary and Producer Richard Ewing.