Century bests Liberty 12-11 on the diamond
It's never really supposed to end that way.
The Century Jaguars defeated the Liberty Falcons 12-11 Monday, April 22, under drizzly skies at Century High School. But it was while a back-and-forth affair for much of the game, it was an injury in the final inning that ultimately tipped the scales.
Leading 11-8 and with shortstop Angelica Colbert at the plate, Liberty pitcher Abby Blair took a line drive foul ball off of her ankle while warming up in the on-deck circle, forcing the Falcons to deploy seldom-used infielder Samantha Savage in the circle for the bottom half of the seventh. Unfortunately for Liberty, a noticeably flustered Savage struggled mightily, walking two and hitting two more. Brianna Loza doubled off the left-field wall, tying the game. A subsequent wild pitch plated the winning run.
Liberty head coach Jordyn Brown took the loss in stride.
"I told the girls there was nothing they could do, and that it's part of the game," Brown said. "All they can do is go out there and have fun and play. I thank Sam for stepping in, and I couldn't ask for much more from her."
Century head coach Emily Keagbine wasn't about to give the win back, but despite being pleased with the victory, the first-year head coach had admittedly never quite seen something like that.
"I've never encountered that scenario before, but all we can do is handle what was in front of us, and I told my girls, let's be smart and wait for a pitch you can drive," she said. "They got one, and some of them drove it."
Liberty wasn't the only team playing shorthanded, as Keagbine said a couple absences led to a handful of her girls playing out of position as well. The Jaguars committed seven errors in the game, which led directly to five Falcons runs.
"We definitely didn't play our cleanest game," Keagbine said. "We had a few absences today, and girls had to play in some different spots, but they fought through some adversity nicely."
Liberty scored one run in the first, three in the second, then appeared ready to run away with it after adding a fifth in the third. But seemingly undeterred, Century battled back in the bottom half of the third, as junior Alexis Oronia singled in Gavyn Shafer and Samantha Shipley to cut the lead to 5-2.
The Falcons made it 6-2 in the fourth when Haley Peebles tripled, Natasha Stubbs and Adrianna Perez walked, then after Peebles was thrown out trying to score on a passed ball, Stubbs scored on a Zoe Allen single to center.
But later that inning is when Century made its big move, scoring six runs with two outs on four singles, two doubles and three walks to take an 8-6 lead after four innings.
Liberty wouldn't go quietly, however, responding with one run in the fifth, three more in the sixth, then what appeared to be an insurance run in the seventh to put the visitors up 11-8 before Blair was forced from the game.
Savage took the mound cold and hit the leadoff hitter to start. Then after walking Brooke Bertrand to put runners on first and second, she struck out Samantha Shipley and appeared poised to work through the inning. But then she walked Shafer to load the bases; Loza's double all but ended the Falcons' hopes, which were dashed a pitch later when a wild pitch officially did the deed.
Despite the loss, Brown was proud of her team.
"I thought that overall, we played really well," the Liberty coach said. "We had a tough go in the fourth inning, and we were a little up and down, but they fought back and dug deep."
Keagbine acknowledged it may not have been the Jaguars' best effort, but she was happy for the win.
"The girls know that wasn't our best game, but we'll make some adjustments and be better," she said. "I feel really strong about the team going forward. We've played some really strong defense of late, coupled with some good hitting, so I feel good about their ability and their potential is really high. I'm excited to see what we can do."
And where do the Falcons go from here? They hope Blair will return sooner rather than later, but with her health up in the air and standout Raegan Kirsop already lost for the season with a finger injury, Brown said they'll have to dig deep.
"Hopefully we can get (Blair) back, because we've already had a bunch of injuries," Brown said. "But if not, we'll have to show some heart next time we go out, because girls could be all over the place now."
Liberty tallied 16 hits in all and was led by Blair, who went 3-for-3 with four runs scored before the foul liner forced her from the game.
Century was led by Shafer, Oronia and Loza, who combined to go 6-for-10 with six RBIs and five runs scored.