This one was more like it.
One day removed a battle between Liberty and Stockdale in which the Patriots handed the Mustangs their first loss in four years in Southwest Yosemite League play and both of the programs' aces were knocked around, Wednesday's game was a spectacular pitching matchup.
Liberty beat Stockdale in a one-run game on Tuesday where the two teams combined for 17 runs.
The loss for the Mustangs snapped a 60-game league win streak. According to Central Section historian Bob Barnett, the streak was the fourth-longest in Central Section history.
On Wednesday, the two aces, Talia Nielsen for Liberty and Sydney Hornbuckle for Stockdale, quickly erased the memory of the day before and put together a masterful pitching matchup at Stockdale.
Hornbuckle gave up just three hits and struck out seven as the Mustangs won 1-0.
The lone run came on a no-question home run to left field for senior center fielder Taylor Hardin.
Nielsen gave up just four total hits and neither team had any other extra base hits as two of the top pitchers in the section put on a clinic in the circle.
The win also puts Stockdale (19-5, 10-1) a game ahead of Liberty (14-5, 9-2) in the league standings heading into spring break.
“(Tuesday) was such a cluster from both team defensively,” Stockdale coach Amanda Hockett said. “Then (Wednesday), the pitchers came out and they were both on their A-game. They battled and defense made the plays.”
In more than 50 career starts, Hockett said she believes she’s pulled Hornbuckle from a game “maybe three times.”
One was Tuesday.
Hornbuckle knew how important it was to come out and prove that Tuesday’s game was a fluke for the 2018 BVarsity All-Area Softball Player of the Year.
Hornbuckle struck out Liberty’s lead off hitter Presley Hosick in the first at-bat of the game. Hornbuckle showed a lot of emotion, pumping her fist toward catcher Katelyn Hornbuckle, her twin.
“I told myself that if I was starting today that I was going to have a fire in me to bust something open to get the team going,” Sydney Hornbuckle said. “Today’s game was big. I don’t want to over emphasize one game, but it was big after (Tuesday’s) loss and ending the streak. But it’s a big relief to have the streak end because there isn’t so much pressure that we can’t lose.”
After both pitchers faced the minimum in the first inning, Hardin’s one-out home run in the bottom of the second rocketed out of the park in a blink for her first home run in more than 140 at-bats.
As soon as the ball left her bat, Hardin said all she could think to herself was, “please don’t hit the fence.”
“We came out here and we’ve been pumped all day,” Hardin said. “At school, in the dugout, it was such a great team win.”
Liberty had opportunities.
Lauryn Serda and Hosick both reached on infield singles in the top of the third. Then in the fifth, Nayely Delgago walked and advanced to second. In the sixth, Shelby Valencia reached first on a passed ball on a swinging third strike and advanced to second on the lone fielding error of the game. But Liberty had just one base runner reach third while no Stockdale base runner, other than on Hardin’s home run, reached third.
“I always look forward to playing them every year,” Nielsen said. “I have a few friends on the team, so the competition is always there. Now I am ready to face them in the playoffs.
Stockdale has reached the Division I semifinals each of the previous three seasons but lost all three on the road and beat Liberty in the quarterfinals in 2017.
“Obviously anyone would like to keep the streak going,” Hockett said. “But it was almost like we needed that to get the monkey off our back in a sense. We’ve taken some heartbreaking losses lately in the playoffs and hopefully we got this one out early and can roll through the playoffs.”