Century beats back Liberty, prepares for state playoffs
It wasn't pretty, but the Century Jaguars baseball team ended the regular season with a win over crosstown Liberty — however I'm not sure they deserved it, and their coach might just agree.
On a cool and windy afternoon at Century High, the Jags scored four unearned runs and held the Falcons scoreless over the final three innings to defeat Liberty 4-3, secure third place in the Metro league and set their sights on a yet-to-be-determined playoff game more than a week from now. But while Century head coach Mason Wright was happy with the result, how they got it might be a different story.
"Nine out of 10 times we lose this game," said Wright. "We didn't play well at all, but it was great to get the seniors in, especially Pooschke who had a nice performance in relief."
Pooschke, was Andrew Pooschke, who took to the mound in relief of starter Jared Gordon and pitched 3.1 scoreless innings, allowing three hits while striking out two and walking one. But while relatively solid on the mound, it was in the field and on the base paths where Century erred not just physically, but mentally too, accentuating a subpar performance with a series of poor decisions that had Wright noticeably frustrated during and after the game.
"Mental errors," he said while shaking his head. "There were a lot of mental mistakes today."
Specifically, Wright cited a lack of communication as something that plagued his team not just on this day, but throughout the season as well.
"We need to be more vocal," said Wright. "That's something we've struggled with with this group, they're very quiet. They're in the game and want to win, but just recognizing how important communication is will be vital going forward."
Meanwhile, Liberty, despite outhitting the Jags nine to five, too shot themselves in the foot, committing three errors, all of which led to Century runs.
"It kind of exemplified our season in general," said Liberty head coach Ryan Raagas. "We stranded nine guys on base in the first four innings and I believe all four of their runs were unearned, so we didn't execute the way we needed to, and that's what separates us between a team that competes and a team that is not going to be playing in the playoffs."
Liberty got the scoring started in the first inning when a Michael Martinez single scored junior Branden Gillard, and they got a second run in the second when after a couple walks and a base hit by Gillard, Briley Heller scored on a bases loaded walk to Xaven Unciano, giving the Falcons a 2-0 lead. But Century fought back in their half of the second — with a little help from the visitors.
A leadoff walk and an error put two runners on, then after a strikeout for the inning's first out, Brett Bertrand singled-in the Jags' first run, and with runners on the corners and two outs, Liberty threw down to second — unsuccessfully — on a Century steal attempt and a second Jag run scored from third to tie the game 2-2.
The Falcons took back the lead in the fourth when after a leadoff groundout, consecutive singles by Gillard and starting pitcher Ben Ineson, coupled with a walk to Bryan Bafaro loaded the bases, before a second walk to Unciano put Liberty ahead 3-2. But in Century's half of the fourth, with runners on first and second and one out, an Ineson balk moved the runners to second and third, then an Alex Garcia single plated two Jaguar runs and Century had a 4-3 lead. One they'd never relinquish.
Now, with the state playoffs on the horizon, Wright will use the next week to shore-up some of his team's weak points, primarily "being more communicative."
And who will start on the mound for the Jags?
"Micky (Thompson) will start, that's a no-brainer for us," said Wright. "But everyone is available, because it's win or go home."
There will be no playoffs for Liberty, but Raagas — who was in his first year as Falcon head coach — said he was proud of his guys and feels they've laid the groundwork for success in years to come.
"Certainly it wasn't the end that I or we had hoped for, but I learned and lot and for me that was a big thing to get my feet wet and grow as a coach," Raagas said. "I thought we steadily improved and I think we competed even more than the kids thought we would, which is a positive, but we just weren't able to convert enough of those close games into wins. But there's definitely a foundation her in which to build upon, and that's what it was about for me in the first year."