Permian junior Hunter Harkrider didn’t wait long to give herself a 17th birthday present.
After the Lady Panthers surrendered a three-run lead in the top of the seventh inning against Lubbock-Cooper Tuesday night, Permian’s shortstop was due up first in the bottom half of that frame.
The first pitch from Lubbock-Cooper’s Reagan Heinrich was down the middle of the plate and Harkrider swung — crushing the ball over the left-field wall to give Permian the victory.
The Lady Panthers downed the Lady Pirates 6-5 in their home opener at the Ratliff Softball Complex.
“I knew I had to crank it,” Harkrider said about her game-winning at-bat. “That’s like the greatest birthday gift ever honestly.”
Harkrider added that she didn’t think about the possibility of ending the game while preparing in the on-deck circle. She just wanted to start the rally to end the game. Luckily for Harkrider, she did it all with one swing.
Harkrider finished the game 3-of-4 with two RBIs and a stolen base in addition to the game-winning long ball. Lex Morales got the complete-game victory in the circle for Permian, striking out six.
“I think that it’s great for our girls to see that we have the potential to do anything and everything,” Permian head coach Kristin Williams said. “We’ve got a great team.”
After Permian (7-0) took a one-run lead in the first inning, Lubbock-Cooper took a lead in the second after one of its two extra-base hits in the game left Permian’s softball field off the bat of Kaitlyn Klemke.
The Lady Panthers tied the game in the bottom of the fourth, when a pickoff attempt from Lady Pirates’ catcher Kristen Hernandez went rolling into the outfield and drove in Harkrider.
In the fifth inning, Permian regained the lead when Kelsi McCall came into the game as a pinch hitter and found a gap in the outfield for a triple. The Lady Panthers added another run when another Lubbock-Cooper pickoff attempt ended up as an error.
Rylee Day doubled in the bottom of the sixth put Permian up three and with limited offense from Lubbock-Cooper in the past four innings, Day’s hit looked to be the game-ender.
The Lady Pirates had other ideas as the first two batters in the seventh inning singled and walked.
Then Reagan Robertson stepped up and timed her game-tying swing perfectly. She sent the ball sailing over wall in left-center field to tie the contest.
After the next Lubbock-Cooper batter singled, Williams came out to the mound to talk with Morales and the rest of the infield.
She told them to relax and just focus on getting out of the inning. The Lady Panthers did so without giving up another run. That allowed Harkrider to hit the walk-off homer.
“They’re playing as a team,” Williams said. “The past couple of years, we’ve really been stressing, team, team, team — and they’re figuring it out and I’m so proud of them.”
“We just know we can do it,” Harkrider added. “We can beat every team out here; we just got to practice hard.”
Williams added that the Lady Panthers’ defense can always improve. They’ll work on that with several games at home from Thursday to Saturday as a part of the ECISD Softball Tournament.
“If we can play stand-up, lights-out defense, we’ll win every game,” Williams said. “We’ve got a great defensive team, I think that nerves hit just a little bit. When they’re on, they are on. They do a great job.”
Cooper……….. 020 000 3 — 5 6 4
Permian……… 100 121 1 — 6 11 1
Rachel Kuehnle, Reagan Heinrich (6) and Kristen Hernandez. Lex Morales and Hannah Banker. W — Morales. L — Heinrich. 2B — Permian: Rylee Day. 3B — Permian: Kelsi McCall. HR — Lubbock-Cooper: Kaitlyn Klemke, Reagan Robertson; Permian: Hunter Harkrider.
Records — Permian 7-0