Bullard Softball

The Bullard Lady Panthers, shown during a Class 4A Region III semifinal game against Waco Robinson, are set to take on Liberty in the regional finals beginning Wednesday in College Station.

Bullard and Liberty will meet on the softball field for the first time since June 3, 2021.

That last meeting was in the Class 4A state semifinals. This time, the two Lady Panthers will square off in the Class 4A Region III finals in a best-of-three series to see which team will advance to the state tournament.

The series begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday. Game 2 is at 6 p.m. Thursday. A third game, if needed, will be at 6 p.m. Saturday. All games will be played at Texas A&M’s Davis Diamond in College Station.

Liberty has won the past two state championships and three of the last four starting in 2018 (there wasn’t a state champion in 2020 due to COVID-19). The last four Class 4A state champions have come from Region III. Huffman Hargrave, which Bullard defeated in the area round this year, won the 2019 state championship.

“We knew when we realigned to Region III that the state champion had come from this region four years in a row,” Bullard head softball coach Julie Murry said. “It tells you that it’s a tough region. We knew we would see a lot of new faces. We knew where Liberty was in the bracket and where we would be, so it’s not a complete surprise that we are playing them. We’ve each taken steps to meet back up. I think they have a great program that is well-coached with kids who are great at softball. We are looking forward to a great series.”

Liberty (34-7) is undefeated in the postseason and has won 19 consecutive games with the last loss coming to LaPorte, 11-2, on March 13.

“I think they have an offense that puts a lot of pressure on you,” Murry said. They have speed from the left side of the plate at the top of the lineup. And they have girls throughout the lineup who can swing big bat.

“They’re tough in the circle. They throw one kid predominantly They’re going to be tough, but we’re tough, too.”

Sophomore Brookelyn Taylor handles the pitching for Liberty. She picked up two wins last week against Burnet, allowing one earned run in 13.1 innings with 17 strikeouts.

Bullard, on the other hand, has a triple threat in the circle with senior Hadi Fults, junior Anistyn Foster and freshman Brooklyn Brannen.

All three pitchers pitched in the series clincher against Waco Robinson in the regional semifinals. In the series’ two games, Fults allowed no runs on four hits with four strikeouts and one walk in 6.2 innings. Foster allowed one run on two hits with four strikeouts and three walks in 4.1 innings, and Brannen allowed one run on two hits with four strikeouts and two walks in three innings.

“I think it’s hard to put value on that,” Murry said of having three pitchers. “It makes us tough. The fact that another team has to adjust to not one or two, but three pitchers in a game or series, that makes it hard for a hitter. It certainly makes us a tough team to beat. I like the way each one is competing. Each one has thrown a lot of stressful pitches, and each have shown their worth, for sure. I think it’s a great opportunity for us to keep our opponents off-balance.”

Foster pitched all seven innings against Liberty in the 2021 meeting when she was a freshman. She allowed one earned run on six hits with five strikeouts nd three walks in the 4-3 setback.

Kamdyn Chandler, Hollie Thomas, Reese Evans and Bailee Slack are the only starters from that Liberty team that are on this year’s team, and they combined for three hits in that state semifinal contest.

Fults, Teagan Graul and Foster started in that game for Bullard and are on this year’s team. Matti Nix and Kylie Pate, both current starters for Bullard, also played in that game in 2021.

Bullard (37-3) has won 26 straight games with its last loss coming on Feb. 28. The Lady Panthers are outscoring opponents 293-54 this season.

Other regional finals are Burkburnett (35-8-1) vs. Decatur (30-8-1) in Region I, Aubrey (32-8) vs. Van Alstyne (23-13) in Region II and Boerne (29-9) vs. Corpus Christi Calallen (28-6-2) in Region IV.

TWITTER: @BrandonOSports

Sports Writer

Brandon Ogden is in his 23rd year covering high school sports in East Texas and has been in Tyler for the past five years. Follow on Twitter: @BrandonOSports

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