Liberty pitcher Brock Barron readily admits that he was a nervous at the start of the Patriots' Central Section Division I first-round playoff game against Clovis East on Wednesday afternoon.
It didn’t take long for the senior left-hander to shake the anxiousness out of his system, though.
After issuing a walk to the first batter of the game, Barron quickly settled down and pitched spectacularly the rest of the game.
Barron hurled a complete game five-hitter to lead No. 5 Liberty to an 8-1 victory over No. 12 Clovis East at Patriots Field.
“I felt a lot of pressure because if I let this team down, I’d feel bad,” Barron said. “…I was super nervous (at the start of the game) and I couldn’t control the ball…But after I got the first guy out, I was like, it’s game time.”
Despite Barron’s brilliance on the mound and some stellar defense behind him, it took the Patriots (24-6) until late in the game to gain some breathing room on a determined Timberwolves squad.
Liberty, which hit just one ball out the infield through the first four innings, led just 2-1 before scoring six runs during its final two turns at bat.
“We got great pitching performance today by Brock Barron,” Liberty coach Tony Mills said. “He was on point. We had an unbelievable play by (second baseman) Brady Amble, diving early in the game, that kept us in the game…We battled at the plate today. We weren’t great early, but we grinded some at bats and found a way. We moved runners along and put pressure on the defense and it helped us. That’s they way we’ve been all year long. We find a way.”
The Southwest Yosemite League champions will travel to the Central Coast to face No. 4 Santa Maria-Righetti, a 5-3 first-round winner over Centennial, in the quarterfinals on Friday.
Barron’s final stat line against Clovis East included seven strikeouts. The five hits he allowed were all singles. Barron issued a pair of walks, one of them intentional.
“I wouldn’t have done as good without my team,” Barron said. “Some of the plays they made on defense, especially a few by Brady Amble at second (base) were tough.”
The Patriots offensive attack finished with seven hits against a trio of Timberwolves pitchers.
Catcher Wade Froelich (2-for-3) was the only Liberty player with multiple hits.
Kaleb Dickey and Cutter Coffey had two RBIs each for the Patriots, who improved to 6-0 against Clovis East since 2006. Liberty defeated the Timberwolves 3-1 earlier this season.
Leading 3-1, Coffey broke the game open when he came to bat with two outs and the bases loaded in fifth and drilled a hard liner that almost clipped the Clovis East reliever Matthew Mathis on its way to center field for a two-run single.
Several of Liberty’s runs were aided by Timberwolves miscues; two directly.
Tied 1-1 in the fourth inning, a one out walk by Isaac Ramos followed by a Will Hernandez line drive single and then a balk by Clovis East starting pitcher Tyler Parker positioned the Patriots with runners on second and third.
Coffey followed with a grounder to the left side of the infield that the Timberwolves third baseman fielded cleanly and fired home, catching Ramos in a rundown. However, after several tosses back and forth, Parker dropped a throw that almost certainly that would have caused Ramos to be tagged out before he reached home plate.
The Patriots first run in the fifth inning was the result of a walk, sacrifice bunt, and two Clovis East wild pitches.
Liberty’s three runs in the sixth were all hard earned. Garret Pavletich started off the inning with a walk. Dickey followed with a RBI single. Two batters later Jacob Tobias smacked the only extra base hit of the game, a double to the left-center gap before Froehlich drove in a run with a single and then Rios plated the final run of the game with a fielder’s choice ground out to shortstop.
“The great thing about today is that we get to show up and go to practice tomorrow,” Mills said. “And it’s fun. We have a great time and practice. We’re going to have fun on Friday. That’s the only game that matters. We can’t look to next week because that’s nothing we can control. The only thing we control is Friday and we’re going to show up and we’re going to try represent the town of Bakersfield and go over to Santa Maria and win the day.”