Liberty tops Century in key league battle, 10-8
It's not how you start, it's how you finish.
Things didn't look good early for Liberty in their critical matchup with crosstown rival Century, but thanks to some timely hitting, along with some key additions to an injury-riddled roster, the Falcons got the win they needed, defeating the Jaguars 10-8 Tuesday, May 7, at Liberty High School.
"It was a pretty big win and it gave us that extra push we needed to hopefully get into the playoffs," freshman pitcher Abby Blair said. "It's a pretty big boost of confidence."
After giving up four runs in the top half of the first and three more in the second, the Falcons fought back from a 7-1 deficit with three runs in the second, two more in the fifth, then four in the sixth to take their first lead and ultimately get the win they needed against an equally hungry Jaguars team. Century, currently No. 38-ranked in the OSAA rankings, needed the win in an effort to work their way into the top-32 for postseason positioning, and now will have to win-out and hope for help to extend their season beyond their May 14 finale versus McMinnville.
Despite the early deficit, Blair said the team didn't panic, but rather regrouped and reset before getting going in the second.
"I felt like we needed to rethink and evaluate it, then get back out there, make adjustments and get back after it," the pitcher said. "And we did."
Liberty head coach Jordyn Brown spoke to her team's ability to overcome the early deficit, but also attributed a bit of their success to a team closer to full strength.
"We had a few mishaps in the beginning, but fought hard and brought it all back," Brown said. "We got two of our players back today, Angelica (Colbert) and Sam (Savage) who had concussions the last two weeks. So it was nice to get our lineup back."
Century took advantage of a handful of Liberty mistakes in the first, scoring four runs on three hit-by-pitches, a passed ball, and singles by Gavyn Shafer and Brianna Loza. Liberty scratched across a run in the bottom of the first on a ground out by Danika Acevedo to make it 4-1, but the Jaguars made it 7-1 an inning later when Shafer hit a 3-run homer to centerfield, scoring Brooke Bertrand and Hannah Hall.
Things looked bleak for the Falcons, but the bottom of the second proved to be the turning point as the Liberty bats came alive, while Blair seemed to settle-in in the circle.
Samantha Savage reached on a fielder's choice, Haley Peebles doubled to center, then after a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases, Blair doubled on a hard line drive to center, clearing the bases and pulling the Falcons to within 7-4.
Blair held the Jags scoreless over the next three innings, then helped her own cause as part of three consecutive singles that loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth before a fourth single by Adrianna Perez plated two, leaving the Falcons down just 7-6.
Liberty made the comeback complete in the sixth, when they scored four runs on a series of Century mistakes, coupled with two more hits by Acevedo and Perez, putting the Falcons up 10-7 and ultimately deciding the game.
Blair was particularly happy with the win, primarily due to being forced from the game in the final inning of the two teams' last meeting as the result of a fluke injury. While an accident and really just poor timing, she couldn't help but feel responsible after her team blew a three run lead in the seventh inning after her departure.
"It felt good because it felt like I could be involved more," she said. "Sitting in the dugout watching that, I felt like I was letting everyone down. So being out there and working hard, and being able to contribute to it felt good."
With the win, the Falcons moved into a tie for fourth place and into the top-32 in the OSAA rankings, improving their hopes of a postseason bid. Brown said that's always a goal, but it's particularly important to her seniors who are hoping to continue building the program for the next generation of Liberty players.
"It's always good to reach the postseason to give us something to build on for the new generation coming in," Brown said. "These next two games, we're going to have to pull one of them out."
Blair led the Liberty at the plate, going 3-for-3 with three RBIs.
Century was led by Shafer who finished 2-for-4 with a home run, three RBIs and two runs scored.