State Championships in softball are becoming commonplace around Liberty, Texas, with the Lady Panthers taking two Class 4A titles home in the past four years, now another local Liberty squad is adding the 2021 Ranger Girls Softball State Championship title, bringing more softball glory to the area.
Liberty traveled to Sulphur Springs, Texas, earlier this summer to compete they took the No. 1 seed coming out of pool play, going undefeated into the championship series with victories over Franklin, Hopson, and Delta Counties oddly enough though, the championship would pit Liberty against Anahuac in a contest between two neighboring teams on a field 250 miles away.
The tournament was a double-elimination style of play, and Anahuac was already facing one loss. At the same time, Liberty was undefeated through tournament play, meaning the young ladies from Liberty needed only one win to take home the hardware.
In game one Anahuac was able to get the best of the young ladies from Liberty, with a lopsided win 14-1, bringing everything down to one game for the championship.
As the two teams were preparing for the title game to begin a massive storm came through the area, wreaking havoc to the playing field. Unfortunately the grounds crews had already gone home for the day and it left the game in limbo, so the parents and supporters from Liberty jumped into action and worked to get the field ready to play. They spent over an hour and a half carrying 50-lbs. bags of dirt and spreading, raking, and dragging the field in order to play the game, but they persevered and go it ready.
Once the two teams settled in the squad from Anahuac jumped out to an early 3-0 lead over Liberty, but the hometown team didn’t travel all that way to come up empty handed.
In the bottom half of the final inning of play with Anahuac three outs from winning, Liberty found themselves down 3-2.
Ava Badgett was up first and ripped a triple to deep center field. With a runner on third and no outs, Anahuac coaches decided to force the out at home by intentionally walking the next two batters, Taylor Knight and Ryleigh Jordan. The first out came at home plate on the next play. The next batter Callie Scheffler made it safely to first, once again loading the bases for Liberty. Liberty’s Emma Smart was up next and sent the ball flying into centerfield to advance Knight and Jordan home and give Liberty a state championship, the first Liberty has one since 2009 in league play.
Skills/ Third Base Coach Joey Scheffler was excited about the performance by his team, “I have never seen such a diverse group of girls come together like they did.”
The squad played what will be their last game together in league play, with a number of them going on to play at several area high school’s. Knight and Smart should be an impressive duo at Hardin, while Jordan, Raelea Putnam and Alyssa Smith are going to add to the already heavily talented Liberty Lady Panthers squad.
Smith was key to Liberty’s title run, as she carried the locals through the entire tournament from the mound.
Scheffler was so proud of the team and really felt like they just kept overcoming diversity throughout their run, especially after the craziness the resulted from the weather conditions. “Those girls came together and bonded that next game like I have never seen. It was unbelievable,” he said.
Team manager Jennifer Bowles, was excited about the team, “We are very proud of all of our girls. They came together as a team and represented Liberty well.”
Finally Scheffler wanted to point out how the Liberty girls did not play a game without turning taking the time to pray.
“We prayed before every game. The power of prayer was just amazing,” he concluded.
Written by Russell Payne