The Burnet High School softball team lost 3-1 to Liberty May 19. Since the Panthers won the first game 6-4 May 18, they won the Class 4A Region III series to end the Lady Dawgs’ season.
But Burnet didn’t go down without a fight.
“I’m proud of them for that mentality,” head coach Hailey Wooten said. “To face the two-time defending state champion and only lose by two in both games, I’m just proud.”
Liberty, (34-7, 10-0 District 20-4A) scored two runs in the first inning thanks to a 2-RBI double by Alexandria Wiley.
A throwing error in the third inning allowed Liberty junior lead-off batter Bailee Slack to get to first base. She later scored on a sacrifice bunt by senior Reese Evans to give the Panthers a 3-0 lead.
In the fifth inning, Burnet (28-12, 9-1 District 24-4A champion) junior Maddi Moise hit a RBI single to score freshman Journey Denton, who reached base on a fielder’s choice to cut the deficit to 3-1.
The Lady Dawgs stranded a total of seven runners, including three in the second inning.
Liberty sophomore pitcher Brookelyn Taylor allowed one unearned run and had five strikeouts in seven innings.
Burnet sophomore pitcher Presely Crawford allowed two earned runs off five hits.
Wooten said the first inning dictated the series result. In the series opener, the Panthers scored four of their six runs in that inning. In the second game, they scored two runs.
“I think we were a little nervous,” she said. “Liberty had a ton of fans. That atmosphere was a little intimidating. Normally we’re the ones who have the big cheering section. They brought a lot. We got the first inning jitters and we calmed down. We were never able to get over the first inning.”
The way game one ended, with Burnet plating four runs in their final three outs with the game-winning run at the plate, speaks volumes about the Lady Dawgs, their coach said.
“You’re coming back and you have a chance to win or tie it,” she said. “It says a lot. We haven’t gotten down like that. For them to take it on and say ‘we won’t quit until the game is over’ says a lot about their heart and their will to win.”
The team says good-bye to seniors McKenzie Davis and Addie Grace Hernandez. Burnet returns Moise, who hit eight home runs this season to break the record held by graduate Savannah Gomez and catcher Camrynn Guthrie, who’ll return for her senior year in 2024. Guthrie is a Florida Atlantic University commit.
And the Lady Dawgs also return Crawford, who had a total of 237 strikeouts on the season.
“(Crawford) is just a competitor,” Wooten said. “Against Salado when she struck somebody out, she ripped off her face and shouts ‘let’s go’ and gives a wave to the other team. She says, ‘I’m going to compete, and I dare you to try to stop me.’ Against Liberty, I think we saw a good hitting team. She’s used to averaging eight strikeouts a game. I feel like it’s going to fuel her to keep working at it.”
While the program returns plenty, Wooten noted the best part about the season is the Lady Dawgs fulfilled many goals. Top of the list was being regarded as the best team in program history. And they have the golden glove trophies to prove it.
Winning the District 24-4A title this season was a first in 21 years. Beating Gatesville for a bi-district championship was a first in eight years. And beating Smithville for an area title was a first in program history. Then they went a round further by beating Salado for a regional quarterfinal championship.
“We set that goal in January,” Wooten said of the players’ desire to be regarded as the best in school history. “They took it on. It never left their heads even when the season got hard. They continued growing and pushing through.”
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