Falcons score a huge upset against state's No. 1-ranked team

Knocking off the top-ranked, reigning state champions on the road is a tall order for a first-round playoff game.

But that is exactly what the Liberty softball team did to Pendleton last month.

The fourth-place team out of the Northwest Oregon Conference, Liberty jumped on the No. 1-ranked Buckaroos early and often in a 9-2 state playoff victory.

With the win, the Falcons advanced to the Class 5A state quarterfinals for the fourth consecutive season.

“We kind of had an up and down year, but ... I had quite a bit of confidence that on any given day, we could play with and beat anybody in the state,” Liberty coach Nolan Meeuwsen said.

And Liberty did just that by setting the tone early. The Falcons scored three runs in the top of the first, one of three three-run scoring barrages the team generated during the contest.

And in the bottom half of the inning, Karolyn Mason proved the team was ready to play on defense as well, making what Meeuwsen described as “an over-the-shoulder basket catch right near the fence” in left field.

In all, the Falcons had 12 hits and drew six walks from Pendleton pitcher Marissa Jones. Chandie Perez led the team with three hits, while Kelly Meeuwsen, Kylie Wruble, Alex Flores and Mason recorded two hits each. Flores also had two RBIs and Meewsen scored three runs.

“We were taking good swings at good pitches and hitting the ball hard,” Nolan Meewsen said.

In the pitcher’s circle, Ashley Driscoll scattered eight hits, walked four and struck out two.

“All elements of the game — pitching, catching, defense, base running, hitting — it was close to our perfect game,” Meeuwsen said.

For their first-round upset, the Falcons were rewarded with a second trip to Eastern Oregon in three days, and they dropped a close 3-1 decision at Hermiston in the quarterfinals.

Liberty finished the season at 16-12, and Kelly Meeuwsen, the team’s sophomore shortstop, was named the NWOC Player of the Year and a first team all-state pick.

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