For Liberty, it was a matter of strategy. For Westminster's Eddie Ashwell, it was a matter of pride.
After the host Lions chose to intentionally walk Sean Brewer to load the bases for the Owls' cleanup hitter in the fifth inning of a scoreless game yesterday, Ashwell delivered with a stinging three-run double to the gap in left-center, giving the No. 12 Owls the lead for good in a 5-3 Central Maryland Conference win.
"It kind of made me want to step to the plate and deliver," said Ashwell, who had struck out in his first two at-bats against starter Zach Schatz. "It kind of showed them that we have a one-two pitch with me and Sean, and you need to respect both of us."
Ashwell, the Owls' starting pitcher, went on to throw a complete game five-hitter, using his accurate fastball and curve to strike out 11 in what he called "my best outing" of the season.
While Westminster (10-2 overall, 7-1 CMC, 4-0 county) made the big plays, however, the Lions (5-7, 3-5, 1-3) continually hurt their own cause.
In consecutive innings, Liberty had a runner picked off first. The Lions also failed to catch a pair of pop-ups near the plate, three times stranded runners in scoring position and missed a golden opportunity in the fourth when, despite three straight singles, they failed to score when Brett Caplan was cut down at the plate on a throw from left fielder Jared Imhoff.
"We lacked timely hitting," Liberty coach Erik Barnes said. "We failed to execute at different points, and in the CMC, you need to play well to consistently have a chance to win."
Schatz, making his first varsity start, pitched effectively for much of the way, holding the Owls scoreless on two hits over the first four innings. In the fifth, however, the junior began to leave his pitches up in the zone, and paid the price.
With two outs, he walked Mike Scheffel and allowed a single to Scott Evelius, who took second on a throw from the outfield. Barnes then choose to intentionally walk the Xavier-bound Brewer to get to Ashwell.
"I would do it again," Barnes said. "I know that Ashwell's an outstanding baseball player, but he struggled a bit at the plate against us the first game and Zach seemed to be doing a pretty good job against him today. He got down, 2-0, and threw back-to-back fastballs."
"We probably would have done the same thing knowing what Eddie had done his first two at-bats, but he's a pretty good hitter," Westminster co-coach Bryan Harman said. "The pitch was there and he took care of it."