The seniors for the Liberty’s softball team were not lacking motivation for their final league game of their high school careers.
Led in the circle by senior Breanna Alvarez and at the plate by senior Marisa Olmos, the Patriots had seven hits against one of the best pitchers in the state to earn a 4-1 road victory over Rancho.
Olmos, who was 3-for-4 with an RBI double against Rancho pitcher Sam Pochop Wednesday, and the rest of the seniors have been waiting for the chance to get one back on the Rams.
“It’s so exciting because we haven’t beat them since freshmen year,” Olmos said. “Going into the game we knew it was going to be close. We knew if we were on our A-game we’d have a chance. We were all in it today and that’s what we need to do come playoffs and state. We need to stay in it and stick it through and we’re going to go far.”
Pochop went the distance and struck out 12 for Rancho (19-9, 14-4 Class 4A Sunrise League) but the Patriots still were able to take advantage of even her slightest mistake.
“We got the hits we needed to but you also have to run the bases very, very aggressively,” Liberty coach James Portese said. “You have to take chances and you have to have perfect throws at the plate to throw us out. The kids wanted to take the chance when I talked to them before the game.”
The critical inning for the Liberty (21-6, 16-4 Class 4A Sunrise League) came in the fifth while already holding a 1-0 lead. Alvarez legged out an RBI triple to score teammate Olmos. Alvarez on a wild pitch to extend the Patriots’ lead.
Rancho got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the sixth with an RBI hit from Pochop but could not complete the comeback.
“We came in and we knew it was going to be a really, really tough game,” Olmos said of matching up with Pachop. “We just had a really good team effort. Everyone was on their game defensively and we got the right hits and the right time and we never got down.”
Alvarez pitched a four-hitter with seven strikeouts to keep the Patriots in control.
“(Breanna) threw well and kept them off balance, but (McKenna Hefley) called a great game behind the plate, you have to give credit to our catcher too,” Portese said. “I wasn’t worried about calling pitches or anything like that. Any time you have a catcher who can take over a game calling the pitches like that, with the history they have, it’s on her.”
Liberty has clinched the league’s No. 2 playoff seed and will host Green Valley in the first round of the playoffs next week. Notching a win against one of the top pitchers in the state will boost the momentum of an already hot team.
“Now we know we can do it. We’ve always been capable of doing it and we’ve cut ourselves short,” Olmos said. “She’s a great pitcher. She was Gatorade Player of the Year and we did it, we beat them. And I think that’s such a great thing for even the girls who haven’t seen her as much and put the bat on the ball and did what they had to do.”
Contact reporter Bill Slane at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4559. Follow @bill_slane on Twitter.