Liberty performs in the clutch to stay alive

Liberty senior pitcher Chandler Murphy prepares to deliver a pitch during his relief outing in the May 3 6A elimination game against Chandler Basha at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa. [Courtesy Ami Davidson/For West Valley Preps]

Mark Carlisle
West Valley Preps

MESA – No. 10 Liberty lives to fight another day in the 6A playoffs after beating No. 6 Chandler Basha 3-1 at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa Friday, knocking Basha out of the playoffs.

The Lions (19-10) fell 1-0 to No. 2 Chandler Hamilton April 30, dropping the first game of the double-elimination portion of the playoffs. After Friday’s win, they will face a region rival, No. 14 Mountain Ridge, in an elimination game at 4 p.m. Tuesday in Tempe Diablo Stadium.

Sophomore Braden Lovett had the clutch hit for the Lions Friday, driving in two runs on a two-out single in the fifth inning, putting Liberty on top of Basha (17-11) 2-1.

Senior Chandler Murphy was the impact player on the hill, shutting down a Basha rally in the fifth, entering with two on and one out and retiring two batters on six pitches, with one strikeout.

“He’s an unreal player. I mean, to have him ready, to have him wanting the ball in those situations, it alleviates a lot of stress,” said Liberty Coach Chris Raymond.

Murphy converted a 2 2/3-inning save. He escaped trouble again in the seventh after giving up back-to-back one-out singles.

He faced two of the Bears’ top hitters with the tying run on first and the winning run at the plate but struck out senior Ty Sifferman and induced a soft comebacker to the mound from junior Ryland Zaborowski to end the game.

“He’s a stud, and he did a phenomenal job competing on the mound,” said Basha Coach Jim Schilling. “(I) thought we had him at the end there, but he executed his pitches and got the job done for his team.”

It was Murphy’s second outing since coming back from arm injury. He threw one scoreless inning in Tuesday’s loss. Murphy threw 41 pitches Friday. Raymond said his usage moving forward is uncertain.

“We’ll see how his body reacts,” Raymond said. “He’s been very, very good at prepping and good at working. So, we’ll see. I mean, one day at a time in the playoffs.”

Murphy struck out three, walked zero and allowed two hits over his 2 2/3 innings.

Senior Kyle Roop earned the win for Liberty, allowing one earned run on four hits over four innings. He struck out three and hit a batter. Sophomore Trevor Toland started the fifth, retiring one batter and allowing a hit and a walk before Murphy entered.

The Lions had their backs against the wall right away in the double-elimination playoffs after losing what Raymond called “a heartbreaker” to Chandler Hamilton Tuesday, stranding runners at second and third to end the one-run game.

Raymond said the coaches tried to lighten the mood at practice during the week.

“Our guys know what’s at stake, and they’re always going to show up in the month of May in this program,” Raymond said.

Basha struck first Friday with an RBI single from Sifferman in the third, driving home senior Bailey Scroggin. That would be all the Bears offense would produce, however, as they stranded seven men on base from that point on.

Liberty might have put more on the board as well but had two runners thrown out at third for the first out of different innings. Junior Jace DeRosier was thrown out in the second, trying to stretch a double into a triple, and senior Christian Contreras was thrown out taking too large a lead off second in the seventh inning.

Contreras set the table for Lovett in the fifth with a double to right that put runners on second and third with one out. Lovett knocked a hit to the left side to drive in junior Peyton Thalman and Contreras for what would be the winning run.

“He’s a sophomore, but he is playing like a college-level baseball player with his IQ, his acuity, his toughness — deep into at-bats, hitting balls hard,” Raymond said of Lovett. “It’s hilarious when I watch the opposing coach move them (the fielders) in because he has like more extra base hits than singles.”

Senior Jeremy Davidson advanced from second to the plate on two wild pitches in the seventh to add an insurance run.

Basha’s junior shortstop Bitner Workman had three errors in the game, but no runs were scored because of them.

Bears junior Blake Berrett was stuck with the loss after giving up two earned runs on six hits in six innings. He struck out five and walked none.

As the Basha players shut the door on the 2019 season, Coach Schilling said he told them he loves them and is proud of them.

Liberty senior starter Kyle Roop gets set to deliver a pitch during a 6A baseball elimination game against Basha May 3 at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa. [Courtesy Ami Davidson/For West Valley Preps]

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