Liberty’s baseball team was in search of a spark on Thursday.
Senior Ethan Ibarra provided it.
Liberty didn’t have a hit and trailed Green Valley 3-0 before Ibarra led off the bottom of the third by lining a single to right. The Patriots scored four runs in the inning on the way to a 9-7 win in the winner’s bracket final of the Sunrise Region tournament at Green Valley.
“Ethan Ibarra had one hell of a game today,” Liberty coach Nick Didier said. “He’s been clutch for us for three years now. I’m just damn proud of him.”
Ibarra finished 3-for-3 with a double, an RBI and two runs for the Patriots (27-4), who advance to Saturday’s championship round. Foothill (18-14) plays Basic (25-10) in an elimination game at 1 p.m. Friday at Green Valley, with the Gators (25-8) playing the winner of that game at 4 p.m.
Liberty will meet the winner of Friday’s second game at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Should Liberty lose that game, a second would be played to determine the champion in the double-elimination tournament.
While Ibarra started the rally, senior Jesse Keiser provided the big blow. After Ibarra scored on a sacrifice fly by Josh McCollum, Keiser drove a 1-o pitch over the fence in left-center field for a three-run homer and the 4-3 lead.
“Keiser came up with that big home run,” Didier said. “That kind of lifted our spirits a little bit. Going down 3-0 to a great team like Green Valley, you never want to put yourself in that hole. But we battled back, we stayed the course, and hey, we were fortunate enough to get the ‘W’ today.”
Liberty added five runs in the fourth, including RBI singles by Ibarra and Keiser, to take a 9-4 lead.
Green Valley got one run back in the fifth on a solo homer by Keola Paragas, and then made things interesting in the seventh.
Jimmy Montiel was hit by a pitch to lead off the seventh, and Jarrett Perns followed with a two-run homer to left to make it 9-7.
Trevor Mullaney relieved Jay Martz, and promptly walked Paragas to bring the tying run to the plate.
But Mullaney got Keaton Smith to ground into a 5-4-3 double play, and Anthony Hatch hit a fly ball to center to end the game.
“That definitely wasn’t the design,” Didier said. “Jay’s pitch count was a little bit up there. He wanted to finish his game so we gave him every opportunity. But Trevor came in and did an outstanding job. He’s been doing that for us all year. Big-time players step up in big-time games, and he did today.”
Keiser finished 2-for-4 with four RBIs. Paragas was 2-for-3 with a triple and three RBIs.
“They’re obviously two of the best players in town and they battled today,” Didier said. “They were two titans going after it. We’re just lucky guys were on for Keiser’s home run and no one was for Paragas’.”
Liberty was in a similar situation last season, heading to the championship round with a 3-0 record. But Coronado beat the Patriots twice on the final day to take the title.
“Last year, we were in the same situation, and I don’t even want to talk about it,” Didier said. “This is a new year, a new bunch of kids and we have faith.”
Foothill 6, Rancho 5 — Rancho committed three errors in the eighth inning, and the Falcons took advantage to stay alive.
Ryan Moyes singled with one out, stole second and went to third on a throwing error by Rancho catcher Zach Barnhart.
One out later, Austin Wilson hit a chopper to short, but Juan Cruz was unable to field it cleanly, allowing Moyes to score the go-ahead run. Cruz then made a wild throw to first, allowing Wilson to advance to second.
Rancho (23-10) got a leadoff single from pinch hitter David Camberos, but Tyler Van Stone got back-to-back strikeouts, and then induced a game-ending fly ball.
Van Stone threw four innings of relief, yielding two runs on two hits, to get the win.
Rancho led 3-0 going to the sixth, but the Falcons plated three runs in the inning to tie it. Foothill then scored twice in the top of the seventh on an RBI double by Bligh Madris and an RBI single by Collin Dobrolecki.
But Rancho answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning to force the extra frame. Dylan Pletsch had an RBI triple just out of the reach of Dobrolecki in right, and he scored on a fielder’s choice.
Dobrolecki was 3-for-4 with two RBIs, and Van Stone and Jack Fredericksen each added two hits for the Falcons.
Pletsch was 2-for-3 with two runs and two RBIs to lead Rancho.
Basic 6, Coronado 3 — Ali Deolarte went 2-for-3 with three RBIs to help the Wolves eliminate the Cougars (19-13).
Deolarte’s two-run single in the third put the Wolves on the board, and he added an RBI single in Basic’s four-run fifth.
Logan Green added a two-run single in the fifth, and teammate Ryne Nelson added an RBI single in the inning, as the Wolves sent 10 batters to the plate in the frame.
Josh McLean gave up one earned run on six hits in 6 1/3 innings to get the win. Tanner Roundy came on to get the final two outs to earn a save. He struck out Coronado cleanup hitter Austin Garcia with runners at the corners, then got Sterling Saltz to ground out to second to end the game.
Mikey York was 2-for-3 with a run, and Skyler Mahoney went 2-for-4 with two runs for Basic.
Derek Clelan was 2-for-2 with two doubles and an RBI to lead Coronado, and Saltz went 2-for-4 with two runs for the Cougars.