Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Liberty catcher Colton Cardoza places the tag on Chowchilla’s Nate Ramos during the third inning of Wednesday’s loss to the Tribe.
FRESNO — The Liberty Hawks had trouble on defense and it paid off for the Chowchilla Tribe in a 6-4 North Sequoia League victory at Chukchansi Park
The Hawks committed eight errors in the loss and Chowchilla ace Austin Hickman allowed three runs over 5 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts to pick up the victory.
“We just didn’t play catch today,” Liberty head coach Mario Cosma said. “We had a good practice yesterday. We thought we cleaned some things up, but we didn’t bring it to the field today. Credit Chowchilla. They put the ball in play. They hit it to us and we didn’t play catch. It’s going to happen from time to time. It seems to happen a little bit this season. It’s our Achilles Heel. We have to clean it up. Our guys know it.”
Liberty ace Gage Arter suffered the loss in 4 2/3 innings. He allowed six runs on seven hit and struck out seven. Quaid Copher allowed on hit over 2 1/3 innings with three strikeouts.
“When we have Gage throwing, he’s going to pitch to contact and the guys have to expect it,” Cosma said. “We just didn’t play well enough to win it.”
Cody Woolsey led the Tribe with four RBIs and Hickman recorded three hits. Quaid Copher led Liberty with three hits and an RBI.
Liberty next plays in the Fowler Tournament with games at 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and 4:30 p.m. on Monday.
“We have to grow from it,” Cosma said. “We have to reset. We have a big tournament in Fowler this weekend. Our guys know we have to get better on the defensive end. When we’re playing well, we’re playing well defensively. We have to get back to do what we do.”
Chowchilla got on the scoreboard in the first inning. Hunter Stonier was hit by a pitch and went to second on an error after a line out.
Hickman reached on an infield single and Stonier took third on the throw to first. Woolsey reached on another error and Stonier scored.
Arter then got a double play to get out of the inning.
Liberty answered in the bottom of the inning. Copher led off with a single to center. Chase Schellenger followed with another single to put runners at first and second. Nathanael Samarin forced Schellenger at second while Copher went to third.
After a strikeout, Trevor Porter singled home Copher to tie the score. Bradley Moon followed with a walk to load the bases, but another strikeout ended the inning.
Liberty took the lead in the second. With one out, David Williams singled up the middle. Copher followed with another single up the middle. Schellenger walked to load the bases.
Samarin hit a fly ball to center that was deep enough for Williams to score, but a groundout ended the threat.
Chowchilla reclaimed the lead for good in the third. Stonier led off with a single and stole second. Nate Ramos reached on an error while Stonier advanced to third. Hickman reached on another infield single to load the bases.
The Hawks just missed on a triple play, Little League style when Woolsey singled to center.
Liberty centerfield Moon threw a strike at the plate to cut down Ramos. Liberty catcher Colton Cardoza then threw to Copher at third to pick off Hickman. Meanwhile, Woolsey, who rounded second on the play, was walking to third thinking the inning was over. Copher tried to tag him out as Woolsey headed back to second. Copher threw to second, but it was wide of the bag and the ball rolled all the way to the right field wall and Woolsey scored the second run of the inning for a 3-2 lead.
The Tribe added to its lead in the fifth. Aiden Munoz reached on an error. After a strikeout, Munoz stole second. Ramos singled up the middle, but Moon threw out Munoz at the plate for the second out of the inning.
Hickman singled to put runners at first and third. Woolsey had the knockout punch with a fly ball just off Williams’ glove in right-centerfield for a triple to score Ramos and Hickman.
Ronin Haley walked on four pitches and Arter was replaced by Copher. After a 2-2 pitch to the next batter, Cardoza picked off Haley, who was tagged out oversliding back to the bag. However, the umpire ruled safe, but Woolsey scored while Liberty was arguing the call. The batter popped out on the next pitch to end the inning with a 6-2 lead.
Chowchilla put runners at second and third in the sixth and another on third in the seventh, but couldn’t add to its lead.
Liberty battled back with a run in the sixth. Jakson Bucher led off with a walk and went to second on an Arter groundout. After Noah Linhares came in to pitch for Hickman, who reached his pitch count limit, Williams grounded out to move Bucher to third. Copher kept the inning alive with a single to drive in Bucher to cut the lead to 6-3.
Liberty battled in the seventh with a one-out rally. Cardoza was hit by a pitch and went to third on a Porter single. Moon grounded out, but Cardoza scored to cut the lead to two.
Linhares saved the game for Hickman with a strikeout.