Liberty's up-and-down season continues with a loss to the reigning state champs

SHERWOOD — The mercurial season continues for the Liberty baseball HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Liberty junior Ryan Kaser winds up to deliver a pitch during Tuesday's Northwest Oregon Conference baseball game against Sherwood.

Certainly, the Falcons are going through some growing pains this spring after graduating eight seniors off of last year’s Class 5A state playoff squad. The youth movement currently is in full swing, as the team started three sophomores and four juniors Tuesday in the opener of a three-game series against Sherwood.

The inexperience showed, as Liberty gave up three runs on errors in the first four innings during a 6-0 loss to the Bowmen, last year’s state champs. The Falcons dropped to 7-12 overall and 5-5 in Northwest Oregon Conference play.

“It just seemed to snowball,” Liberty coach Jackson Gillett said. “We actually had more hits than they did, and when you lose 6-0, it’s crazy to think that you outhit the other team. But we made little mistakes, and little mistakes add up. They don’t make little mistakes. They’re rock-solid, everything they do.”

The defeat bucked a trend of tight margins in losses this spring for Liberty. Of the team’s 12 setbacks through Tuesday, four had come by one run apiece, while four others came by two runs. After stringing together six wins in a row in the first half of April, the Falcons dropped their fifth contest in six outings on Tuesday.

The tone in this one was set in the bottom of the first, when the Bowmen picked up their first run on a Liberty error.

That would actually be the only score Sherwood would need, as returning first team all-state pitcher Riley Moore threw seven shutout innings and his defense backed him up ably when the Falcons did put runners on base.

But the Bowmen added plenty of insurance — five runs — in the third through fifth innings to pad their advantage

Even in the loss, Liberty junior Ryan Kaser was tough on the pitcher’s mound. Only two of the five runs he gave up in four-plus innings were earned — on a two-run home run by Zakary Taylor over the left field fence in the third — but the home side added two more runs in the fourth on Falcons fielding errors and a final tally on a sacrifice bunt in the fifth off reliever Jared Akin.

“They just made the plays when it mattered, and we didn’t always come up with the ball when we needed to,” Kaser said. “I didn’t have my best game, and I let my teammates down.”

While Kaser expressed disappointment in his performance, his coach felt differently.

“He threw great. He only gave up three hits,” Gillette said. “If you throw five innings against ... the returning state champ and we give up three hits, you’re throwing fine. The defense could have made a couple of routine plays, that would have picked him up and this game could have just as well been 0-0.”

Liberty also had trouble getting its offense going, despite having its chances. In both the fourth and sixth innings, the Falcons wasted prime opportunities after putting two runners on base with one out. In the fourth, Tyler Parker drew a walk and then Renner Stecki sent a ball off of Sherwood shortstop Spencer Clay to get on base. Two innings later, Akin knocked a single to left center and then Parker launched a double to right field.

But in each of those stanzas, Sherwood squelched any thoughts of rallies as Moore induced consecutive fly outs in the fourth and two 6-3 groundouts in the sixth to emerge unscathed.

“We just need to put the bat on the ball,” Kaser noted. “I think that’s the only thing we’re lacking right now, is just hitting the ball.”

Liberty gets its next chance to do that today, when the Falcons wrap up the series at Sherwood before kicking off a three-game series at home against St. Helens on Tuesday. First pitch is at 4:30 p.m. for both contests.

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