All of this is starting to feel quite commonplace.

After all, this is almost the exact same postseason path the Liberty softball team took last season, the only difference being a slight one of HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD -  Ashley Driscoll throws a pitch during Liberty's 4-1 defeat of Silverton Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the Liberty softball team knocked off Silverton 4-1 at Hillsboro Stadium in a Class 5A first round playoff game. That contest was the fourth in as many seasons in which the Falcons and Foxes have squared off in the postseason – Silverton won quarterfinal games in 2012 and 2013 while Liberty picked up a play-in game victory last spring.

“It was great, because the first year we lost to them, and that was kind of rough,” said pitcher Ashley Driscoll, who has been on varsity for the past three of those games. “And then last year we beat them, and then I knew this year we had to get them again. For me, best two out of three.”

The win puts the team in a familiar spot. The Falcons have now made the state quarterfinals every year since 2010 but are still looking for that breakthrough win into the next round.

“Either I better get to the semis, or I need to be fired, I guess,” Liberty coach Nolan Meeuwsen joked after the game while his team chattered away excitedly in the home dugout.

To get a chance at that next round, the No. 6 Falcons (22-6) were not always at their best Wednesday against No. 11 Silverton (18-10), but they were good enough. Meeuwsen described pitcher Ashley Driscoll’s performance as a “grinding” one, noting that the defense stepped up to make plays behind her, but the team also made some mistakes offensively and had trouble adjusting to Fox pitcher Alex Molloy’s offspeed game for quite a while.

Liberty actually spotted Silverton the game’s first run on a sacrifice fly in the fourth, but it answered back in the bottom half of the inning.

With two outs and the bases loaded, on a full count Sophia Coalwell sent a Molloy pitch up the middle to drive in Kelly Meeuwsen. Paige Smotherman also came home for the go-ahead run when the Foxes misplayed a throw from home plate to third base.

Chandie Perez provided some insurance in the sixth with a two-RBI single that plated Meeuwsen and Smotherman, who had reached base on a single to center and a double to right-center, respectively.

“I was just thinking of my team and how I needed to do this and score them,” Perez said. “I was just like, oh my gosh, I just need to hit the ball.”

Driscoll then retired the Foxes in order with a popup to third and two groundouts to third. The Falcons’ only senior, Driscoll struck out three and scattered five hits. Molloy, a freshman, yielded eight hits and fanned two.

So what is Liberty’s reward for advancing to the round of eight for the fifth straight season?

A long, familiar drive along I-84 to Pendleton.

“It’s like an annual trip that we go over to Pendleton,” Meeuwsen quipped.

The Falcons certainly know all about the Buckeroos. After the Silverton play-in win last year, they traveled to Pendleton as the No. 16 seed and upset the No. 1 Buckeroos 9-2. And more distantly, the two programs split first round games in 2009 and 2010.

“Their kids are athletic, they’re fast, they’re quick,” Meeuwsen said. “They have huge softball IQ. We’re looking forward to that challenge.”

The good news is that if the Falcons can pull off another upset against Pendleton, they might actually face a playoff opponent they don’t seem to run into all the time. Hermiston, another common foe – Liberty has traveled for playoff games against the Bulldogs the past two years – is not in this year’s field. Instead, the Liberty/Pendleton victor will face the winner of Friday’s No. 10 Willamette at No. 2 Hood River Valley contest.

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