Liberty claims 1A softball State Championship

Published: May. 24, 2023 at 11:03 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) -The Liberty softball squad proved to be a team that can overcome any kind of obstacle you put in its way, and that includes Mother Nature. Liberty and Branford playing in the 1A title game that began Tuesday, It was tied at four when bad weather forced them to postpone the finish of that game until ten eastern time Wednesday morning. Liberty had two on and nobody out in the top of the 5th as they resumed, and after an infield out, sophomore Chesnee Hires stepped up and belted one to left, and over the fence. The Bulldogs had a three run lead! Gabriella Flowers and Elizabeth Arnold trotted home and then became part of the greeting party for Hires! It was a 7-4 game. Lauren Grantham on the mound for Liberty, looking to close it out, in the bottom of the 5th she worked her way out of a jam, runners and second and third she ended the threat with a swinging strikeout. In the bottom of the 6th a clean inning for Grantham, again ending the frame with the K. So it was still 7-4 in to the bottom of the 7th, Buc’s did get a two out double, but Grantham able to get a fly ball to right to end it and give the Bulldogs the 7-4 win, and the program’s second softball state championship. I spoke with coach Jennifer Sewell as the team made it’s way back north on the bus Wednesday afternoon.

”I mean it was hard yesterday, we got the momentum going our way into that second weather delay.” coach Sewell told me. “You know it kind of killed the momentum. We came and sat on the bus for about an hour before they called the games to reschedule it for this morning. But this team, when they got up this morning, just seeing them in the lobby, you could tell they were ready to compete and they were ready for the game to start. In the top of the fifth Chesnee Hires came up big with a three run bomb, came up huge on that big hit! And just from there you could see just the momentum, and our fans had our back the whole entire time. You know Liberty County fans, and the community are awesome and they stayed there to support us!”

I then spoke with sophomore Chesnee Hires who hit what turned out to be that game winning three run homer in the 5th. ”I was up in the count 2-1, I knew she had to come back with something, a perfect pitch.” Hires said. “So I remained calm, told myself to be ready for it. She threw me inside and I did what I do best and sent it over. I think was the quickest I’ve ever run around the bases for a home run. I don’t think I realized how fast I was moving until I got to coach Sewell.”

Coach Sewell also coached the Liberty volleyball team to the state title back in November, so a rare and terrific feat for her and four of her softball players, who also played on that volleyball squad.

”It’s very unique to win two state championships in one year,” Sewell told me “you know six months apart. You know you don’t see it very often. I’m very proud of those girls that they got the opportunity to do that.”

Junior Gabriella Flowers, one of those players earning two titles this season added “I just feel like I’m on top of the world right now, I mean I’ve got two of these!” pointing to her championship medal. “Most of my life I”ve been working for this one game, this one championship, that’s what I’ve been doing. And it was just like a dream come true, it’s still kind of unreal. All the hard work and effort that I put into it has finally paid off for something.”

The team has a tradition of singing the school alma mater after each game, and they carried on that tradition Wednesday, with one rather noticeable change, doing it on the field in front of family, friends and fans alike!

”You know it’s kind of just our thing, when we win we sing it.” said Hires “We normally do it on the bus. But to sing it with all our friends and family out there, especially our teammates and schoolmates who knew the song well, it’s just one big happy emotion. Especially after winning the state championship.”

“It meant a lot actually.” said freshman Cha’miya Williams who was 3-4 with three runs scored in the title game. “I’m not gonna lie, I really didn’t know the words. I was just going with it. And it was really great to see everybody singing it with us.”

Certainly a memory that will last a lifetime. The team getting back to campus in the late Wednesday, Queen’s “We are the Champions” blaring, plenty of fans there to greet them. Again congratulations to the Liberty Bulldogs, state champs once again!