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Liberty's baseball and softball teams both play their way into the 5A state playoffs

Last Friday was a good day for the Liberty Falcons.

Both Liberty’s baseball and softball teams advanced to the Class 5A state playoffs with play-in round victories — baseball was a 3-2 winner on the road against Springfield, while softball won a 16-6 decision at home against Silverton.by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Liberty senior Alex Flores looks to turn a double play during last Friday's Class 5A state play-in game against Silverton, a 16-6 win.

That set up a pair of long road trips for first-round playoff games on Wednesday (after press deadline). The Liberty baseball team traveled to Redmond, and the softball team was on the road against top-ranked Pendleton.

“We’re very familiar with that team,” Liberty softball coach Nolan Meeuwsen said. “We haven’t played them the last couple years, but we’ve had several playoff battles in the past.”

Meeuwsen’s squad played its way into the postseason with a mercy-rule victory over Silverton last Friday, a five-inning contest that lasted 2 hours, 15 minutes.

Liberty scored 16 runs on nine hits and 17 walks. Chandie Perez ended the game in the bottom of the fifth with an RBI single to right field that capped a five-run inning.

“It was a long, long game,” Meeuwsen said. “I think everybody was happy to see that base hit drop in.”

Paige Smotherman had a big day at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a double and a home run. Kelly Meeuwsen was 2-for-2 with a pair of doubles, and Kylie Wruble went 2-for-3 with two doubles. The top four hitters in the lineup — Meeuwsen, Wruble, Smotherman and Alex Flores, who reached base in all four plate appearances — went a combined 7-for-9 in the game.

The Falcons scored at least two runs in every inning but could have done even more damage, leaving the bases loaded three times.

Despite the lopsided final score, the game got off to an inauspicious start for the Falcons, with Silverton jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning. The Foxes led until the third, when Liberty took control with a four-run surge.

“We dug ourselves a little bit of a hole,” Meeuwsen said. “We were a little bit skittish to start with, but we made some adjustments to their pitching and eventually we got things going.”

Ashley Driscoll pitched for Liberty, giving up six runs on six hits and three walks, but most of the damage was done early in the game, when conditions were wet and cold.

“Once she got loosened up and limbered up she pitched pretty well,” Meeuwsen said.

The win improved Liberty’s record to 15-11 and clinched the program’s fifth consecutive state playoff berth. The Falcons earned a first-round game against Pendleton (22-4), which is the No. 1-ranked Class 5A team in the state.

“Our goal is to go over there and play our game,” Meeuwsen said. “We just want to play our game our way and hopefully we can come away with a win.”

Liberty’s play-in baseball victory had a bit more drama, with the Falcons needing eight innings to dispatch Springfield, 3-2.

Kevin Lave pitched a gem, giving up two runs to the first two batters he faced, then throwing seven shutout innings after that.

The Falcons battled back to tie the game at 2-2, and senior shortstop Zach Chitwood gave Liberty the lead in the top of the eighth with a solo home run over the wall in left field.

“(He was) the hero of the game,” said Liberty head coach Jackson Gillett. “The shot got the entire crowd off their feet and the dugout went crazy. It was a great moment for the (team).”

Liberty senior Dakota Drake went 2-for-3 with a double, and Gillett lauded the defensive efforts of Jason Sandwisch and Derek Beeler, who “each played spectacluar defense, making highlight plays on more than one occasion,” he said.

The win improved Liberty’s overall record to 16-11, and sent the Falcons on the road for the first round of the playoffs, where they were scheduled to face third-ranked Redmond (19-6).

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