Liberty's baseball team appears to like facing Stockdale pitching, but Patriots coach Tony Mills said that's not quite right.
"We've been real blessed to score runs against almost anybody we've played," Mills said after Liberty beat host Stockdale 15-7 on Tuesday. "Stockdale has a tremendous pitching staff, but it just so happens that each time we've played them, we've hit them where they weren't."
But then, the Mustangs could have expected to have fielders lined up along the outfield fence, which was clanged a number of times as Liberty (16-10, 6-4 Southwest Yosemite League) pounded eight extra-base hits and batted around in three straight innings.
This came after Liberty had defeated Stockdale 11-4 and 14-1 in previous meetings.
"One thing we do real well is take a good mental approach at the plate," Mills said. "We swing the bats well, and we take pride in that. We just need to work on the other phases of the game."
Thanks to Luke Andrews, the Patriots were fine in the pitching department, too. He threw five innings on just 61 pitches -- 43 strikes -- allowing a run on five hits.
"He kept the hitters off-balance," Mills said. "If you can do that, you can get outs at any level."
It's also tough to lose when you get 15 runs of support. Jassen Oliver tripled off the top of the left-field fence to open the game and scored on Joey Rossi's sacrifice fly. With two outs in the second inning, Kody Wright lined his first home run of the season over the same spot in left field to make it 3-0.
"Off the bat it felt good, but I didn't think it was gonna get out," Wright said. "I heard coach yelling 'Two! Two!' so I thought it was a double, and then somebody just said it was gone."
The Patriots bats really got going in the third. Oliver opened with a single, and then Rossi, Ross Puskarich and Josh Medina hit three straight RBI doubles to make it 6-0. That chased Stockdale starter Mitch Mullen, who came in with a 1.98 ERA.
"You can't leave the ball up against those guys," Stockdale coach Brad Showers said. "If you leave it up, they'll hit you hard, and that's what we did today."
Liberty left the bases loaded in the third but also sent nine batters to the plate in the fourth (five runs) and fifth (four runs). The big blows were a bases-loaded ground-rule double from Doug Wyman in the fourth, and RBI doubles from Medina and Wright in the fifth. Wright's shot into the gap made the lead 15-0.
"Stockdale has all those good pitchers, but coach just tells us to stay inside our swing and try to go the other way," Wright said. "It's nice when everyone is going. It keeps everybody up. We want to one-up each other, and we start having fun."
Rossi finished 3-for-3, Oliver and Rossi each scored three runs and Wyman and Wright each had 3 RBIs.
Stockdale scored its seven runs in the final three innings, mostly after Liberty had removed its starters from the game. Cole Tucker, a sophomore, scored two runs and struck out five in two innings as a relief pitcher.
"That was one plus," Showers said. "We didn't just lay down."
Zach McHone struck out the final two Mustangs batters with two runners aboard in the seventh inning before things got more interesting.
Stockdale (11-11, 5-5) now must win three of its final five games to meet the school's .500 rule for entering the playoffs. These teams play at Liberty on Thursday, and the Mustangs end with two games against league-leading Frontier, then two against last-place Bakersfield.
As for Liberty, it likely will not catch Frontier (9-1 SWYL) in the league race. But the Patriots showed Tuesday that they're going to be dangerous the rest of the way.
"Frontier's a lock for the the championship," Mills said. "We just want to finish strong and keep playing well."