Liberty pinch runner Jesse Wilkinson looked dazed as he wondered off first base in the third inning of Saturday’s wind-blown game.
He was trapped, stranded and on the verge of running the hosting Lancers right out of the inning. And yes, that’s just the way his coach drew it up.
With two outs, Wilkinson purposely stranded himself between first and second base, which allowed Kyle Simon to score the Lancers’ eventual game-winning run from third base in Liberty’s 3-2 win.
Once Simon crossed home plate, Wilkinson, who was in a rundown between bags, gave himself up to end the three-run inning and put Liberty up for good.
After the game, Liberty coach Scott Cooper confirmed with a smile that the stranded runner in the third was all part of the plan.
“I don’t want to give away all our secrets, but yes it was by design. We practice it a bit,” Cooper said. “We were willing to get that third out as long we got that run in.”
Doherty coach Chris Solarek on the other hand said his main focus was just trying to get out of another hectic inning, as the Spartans’ pitching duo of Brandon Schmidt and Dusty Kachel allowed the leadoff hitter aboard in every inning.
“We just wanted out of (the third) inning. And if you told me that we wouldn’t score a run after that I would’ve said you were a liar,” Solarek said. “We were focused on getting the third out. It’s too bad our bats just stayed quiet today.”
Liberty pitcher Matt Caverly made sure of that.
The senior pitched all seven innings, only giving up two runs in the second inning, while striking out seven and walking two.
“We have a never-say-die attitude on this team so when I gave up the runs, I just battled back,” Caverly said. “And I couldn’t have done it without our great defense today.”
In the top of the seventh and final inning, Joe Hollmann led off the inning with a line drive to the wall but was thrown out on a dart from Zach Estes while trying to leg out a triple. It started when outfielder Josh Turner played the ball cleanly off the wall and rifled a crisp throw to Estes, who sent it to third baseman Simon for the first out of the inning.
“A couple things didn’t go our way and that’s the way it is sometimes,” said Spartans cleanup hitter Evan Weidner, who was also a victim of the Lancers’ stout defense going 0-for-3 despite creaming two long flyouts to the fence. “We had some chances and we just didn’t come through today."
Caverly gave up two infield singles later in the seventh but beat leadoff hitter Nick Chavez to the bag to close the game.
Doherty (5-5 overall, 1-1 5A Metro) and Liberty (5-5, 1-1) split the season series at one game apiece.