Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Liberty Hawks softball players surround pitcher Sarah Shevenell after the final out was recorded in Thursday’s victory over Mission Oak in the Div. III quarterfinals.
The Liberty Hawks softball team and Sarah Shevenell appeared to have everything under control, but the Mission Oak-Tulare Hawks scored three runs in two innings to tie their Div. III Central Section quarterfinal playoff game.
Fourth-seeded Liberty scored a run in to the bottom of the fifth inning and held on for a 4-3 victory over Mission Oak to advance to Tuesday’s semifinal game against top-seeded Dinuba.
“This win feels really good,” senior Brianna Burgess said. “This team battles really hard. We knew coming into this, we had to put for the effort into this every single inning and do our jobs and that’s what we did today. I’m really proud of my team.”
Burgess scored two of Liberty’s four runs from the lead-off spot with a pair of hits. Lauren Chapman added two hits while Paige Chapman and Camille Vestal had three hits each.
The Hawks also had five stolen bases, including one by Burgess to set up a run and two from Chapman.
“They came back and we new we had to utilize all our assets and one of them was our speed,” Burgess said.
The Hawks had traffic on the bases all game. They left nine runners on base despite scoring four runs. Liberty scored three of its runs after advancing the runner to the next base.
“We haven’t been able to get those key hits all year,” head coach Steve Uyeda said. “The kids worked on it hard on it in practice. We’re trying to not hit flying balls they can catch, but hit ground balls.
Liberty pitcher Sarah Shevenell picked up the win in the circle. She allowed one earned run in the complete game. She struck out nine and didn’t walk a batter. She closed out the game retiring the final eight batters in order with three strikeouts.
The Liberty offense gave Shevenell the lead early. With one out, Paige Chapman ripped a double to left-center. She stole third and scored on a fly ball from Hannah Santoro for the 1-0 lead.
Liberty added a run in the third inning, but left the bases loaded. Burgess led off the inning with a bunt single. She went to second on a bunt single from Chapman. After a popout, Lauren Chapman singled to load the bases.
Vestal followed with another single to drive in Burgess for a 2-0 lead. Shevenell forced out Paige Chapman at the plate for the second out and a groundout ended the inning with the bases still loaded.
Mission Oak tied the game in the top of the fourth taking advantage of a Liberty error to allow the lead-off batter reach base. Shevenell retired the next two batters, but the next batter singled and a wild pitch put runners at second and third.
Shevenell fell behind to the Mission Oak No. 9 battter and she made Shevenell pay with a double to left-centerfield to drive in two to tie the score.
Liberty quickly took the lead in the bottom of the inning. With on out, Meg Pentorali walked, but Burgess forced her at second. After Burgess stole second, Paige Chapman singled up the middle to drive in Burgess for a 3-2 lead.
With one out in the fifth, Shevenell left a pitch that caught too much of the plate. Mission Oak’s Elizabeth Wycoff sent a ball over the left-centerfield fence to, again, tie the score.
Liberty came back to score a run in the third straight inning to take the lead for good. With one out in the fifth, Vestal singled. Shevenell sacrificed pinch-runner Kaley Bowe to second. Jaclyn Smith followed with a single up the middle to drive in Bowe for the eventual game-winning run.