Liberty runs home with 4-3 win, title on 9th-inning error

In final because of forfeit, No. 8 Lions edge Bennett

Class 2A baseball

High Schools

May 30, 2004|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

Few teams have benefited more from mistakes and extra innings than the Liberty High baseball squad that won its second state title yesterday at Joe Cannon Stadium in Harmans.

The No. 8 Lions outlasted James M. Bennett of the Eastern Shore, 4-3, in nine innings to win the Class 2A state championship. It is the school's second state crown in baseball, the other being a 3A title in 1997.

A forfeit by Eastern Tech because of a pitching violation last week put Liberty back into the tournament.

Liberty (20-3) scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth yesterday on a Bennett throwing error, which came after a Lions base-running miscue.

With the score tied at 3, senior Shawn Houck singled to lead off the ninth and moved up on Dave Tart's bunt.

Drew Counselman then grounded to shortstop, and Houck mistakenly took off for third base. Instead of throwing to third to try to get Houck, shortstop Alex Salimian threw to first, but his throw sailed over the first baseman's head and Houck streaked home.

"I had just reminded Shawn to make sure the ball was through that side when Drew hit the ball at the shortstop, " said Lions coach Erik Barnes. "Shawn took off and I thought, `Oh, no,' but the shortstop didn't even look to third."

Said Houck: "I was convinced I would make it [to third]. And when everybody started cheering, I knew I was going to make it home."

Houck (6-1, four saves) picked up the win with two scoreless innings of relief and made a clutch throw to cut down a runner at home in the sixth inning.

The ninth-inning error was the seventh of the game by Bennett (19-3), which committed three in the fourth inning that enabled the Lions to score three runs and tie the game at 3.

The Clippers had scored three runs off Wade Keenan in the first inning, but the left-hander allowed no more runs during the rest of his outing.

The Lions didn't expect to be playing yesterday because they lost their semifinal, 4-0, to No. 15 Eastern Tech on Tuesday . However, Tech had to forfeit because one of its pitchers went over the limit for innings pitched in a seven-calendar-day period.

"Coach Barnes told us Wednesday night at a varsity club banquet that we had a chance to get back in," said senior catcher Brett Caplan. "We practiced the next day. I guess somebody was looking out for us."

Said Barnes: "I told the kids that it isn't often you get a second chance and that we needed to take advantage of it."

Bennett might have gone ahead in the sixth yesterday had it not been for a sterling play by Houck in center field.

Gordon Kretser, who started on the mound for the Clippers, drilled his second double of the game into right-center field leading off the inning. After a popout, Brandon Records singled into the gap in left-center.

Houck ran it down as Kretser rounded third and was waved home. Houck got off a strong throw, but it was a bit up the third-base line. Caplan grabbed it and, in one motion, made a nifty, diving tag on the runner who was behind him.

Keenan threw 107 pitches in seven innings, giving up seven hits, walking three and striking out eight. He came out after telling Barnes he was tired.

JMB 300 000 000 - 3 7 7

L 000 300 001 - 4 9 2

Kretser, Adams (5) and Benjamin; Keenan, Houck (8) and Caplan. 2B: JMB-Kretser (2); L-Anuszewski.

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