Forget the Southwest Yosemite League title, forget playing a neighborhood rival and forget, at least for a minute, about Central Section playoff seeding.
Liberty High baseball coach Tony Mills just wanted to see his team play well again Friday -- and a 13-3 home win over Centennial certainly qualifies.
"We played a good last ballgame, and it's something to build on," Mills said. "The kids really responded, and we beat a good, quality team."
Centennial had beaten Liberty 16-7 on Wednesday, with the help of a seven-run fourth inning, to clinch a share of the SWYL title. But the Patriots (19-11, 9-6 SWYL) turned the tables in the regular-season finale for both teams, scoring seven times in the third inning and cruising behind starting pitcher Christian Sinnott.
The loss, combined with Stockdale's 13-0 victory over Bakersfield, means Centennial (16-10-1, 10-5) must share the SWYL title with the rival Mustangs -- something Golden Hawks coach Randy Roberts said is fitting, considering he and longtime Stockdale coach Dan Lemon both plan to retire from coaching after the season.
"It's awesome," Roberts said. "Hey, if the end of the season comes and we've got a piece of that championship, we're very pleased."
Roberts also said his team didn't seem right Friday.
"I thought we played nervous," he said. "It was like we made one mistake, and then one mistake would lead to another."
Centennial committed four errors, but Liberty also pounded 12 hits, stole six bases and moved up on four wild pitches, running around the diamond on the Golden Hawks (16-10-1, 10-5) as if LHS was hosting another track meet.
"The bottom line is, you've got to take opportunities when you get them," Mills said. "This is the third time we've played Centennial, and we knew how they were going to pitch our hitters. We were fortunate to make a lot of plays."
At the top of the list was the hitter at the bottom of the lineup, junior first baseman Hanz Harker. With Liberty trailing 1-0, his double started the super-charged third-inning rally. Later in the inning, he singled home a run and then hit a two-run home run to right field in the fifth. He finished 3-for-4 with two runs and three RBIs.
"They've been throwing me fastballs the whole time we've played them, so I was just sitting there waiting on fastballs," Harker said. "It feels great."
Jassen Oliver (2-for-5 with two runs and two stolen bases) made it back-to-back home runs in the fifth, and Josh Medina also collected three hits.
Meanwhile, Sinnott overcame early wildness to hold Centennial to two earned runs in six-plus innings, striking out seven and allowing three hits.
"This game proves we can hang with anybody in the playoffs," Harker said. "We come in hot, and anything can happen."
The section playoffs begin Wednesday; the section commissioners will draw the brackets today in Porterville. Mills said he thinks Liberty deserves a first-round home game -- and armed with that, he sees no reason the Patriots can't make a run after battling injuries early in the year and ending on a positive note.
"We're going to be a full strength," Mills said. "I like our chances as much as anybody."