Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Liberty’s Quaid Copher slides safely into third base after a third inning stolen base during the Hawks’ 12-0 Div. V Central Section semifinal victory over the Corcoran Panthers on Wednesday at Liberty.
Hawks pound Panthers for title game berth; faced Minarets for Div. V title today
The Liberty Hawks baseball team will get a chance to defend its Div. V Central Section championship after defeating No. 3 Corcoran, 12-0, in the semifinals at Liberty.
The second-seeded Hawks banged out 13 hits and put the game away with five runs in the first and runs in the first four innings Wednesday afternoon.
“We’ve been preparing two weeks straight for playoff baseball,” sophomore lead-off batter Quaid Copher said. “Our mindset was no strikeouts and put the ball in play. We did that great today.”
The Hawks get a rematch with Minarets in the championship game Friday at Fresno State’s Beiden Field at Bob Bennett Stadium. The Mustangs no hit the Hawks during the Fowler Easter Classic in a 1-0 victory.
“Minarets is a very formidable opponent,” head coach Mario Cosma said. “The coach does a really good job. They are going to be prepared and we will be too. It’s going to be a great game. I’m hoping we perform well.”
“It’s awesome to go to the championship game again,” Copher said. “We have Nate (Nathanael Samarin) on the mound so it should be good.”
Birthday boy Gage Arter, along with Quiad Copher and Chase Shellenger limited Corcoran to just four hits. They walked one batter and just four runners got into scoring position.
Arter picked up the victory allowing just two hits in 4 1/3 innings. He struck out four and didn’t issue a walk.
“I had extreme confidence in what I can do,” Arter said. “I rested the past two weeks so I knew I could do it.”
“I’m really happy for Gage,” Cosma said. “It’s his birthday today and he pitched a really great game. His last outing, he struggled against a tough opponent. Today, he pounded the strike zone well and got a nice lead early. When you have a good lead and you’re pitching up there, it’s really nice to focus on what you’re doing. His innings have been up a little. We took the approach to rest him. We’ve been working him in the bullpen. He threw on Monday and I liked what I saw. He came out today and performed at a very high level.”
Despite just one extra base hit, the Hawks pounded out 13 hits. All nine starters had a run, hit or an RBI. Seven of the nine batters recorded at least a run, hit and RBI. Samarin and Bradley Moon each had three hits to lead the team. Schellenger, Samarin, Colton Cardoza and Moon each scored a pair of runs while Moon was the only Hawk with more than one RBI with three.
“The team motto is give it to the next guy,” Copher said. “Get on base and leave it to the next guy.”
After a quiet top of the first inning, the Hawks went to work in the bottom of the inning. Copher led off with a single up the middle. Schellenger drew a walk.
Samarin hit a deep fly ball over the outstretched glove of the left fielder for a long single. Copher scored, but Schellenger only advanced to second.
Cardoza followed with another deep fly ball to left field. After making two pirouettes, the leftfielder watched the ball go over his glove for another long single. Schellenger scored and Samarin advanced to second.
Trevor Porter forced Cardoza at second, but Samarin advanced to third and Porter hustled down the line to beat the double play. After Porter stole second, Moon then singled to left to drive in Samarin while Porter advanced to third.
Moon stole second and the next batter struck out. Arter helped his own cause with a single up the middle to drive in Porter and Moon, after a head-first slide to elude the catcher’s tag, for the 5-0 lead.
Although Arter was staked to a five-run lead, he ran into trouble in the second. A strikeout, an error, single and another error loaded the bases. Arter struck out the next batter and got a fly out to Porter in left to end the inning.
Liberty added to its lead in the second. With one out, Schellenger drew a walk. He went to third on a hit-and-run single by Samarin. After Samarin stole second, Cardoza walked to load the bases.
Porter flew out to right, but Schellenger scored. Moon then doubled over the centerfielder’s head to drive in Samarin and Cardoza for an 8-0 lead.
After the second, the Liberty pitching staff allowed just five baserunners over the final five innings and only two reached second base.
Liberty added another run in the third when Arter led off the inning with a single up the middle and stole second. After a popout, Copher reached on an error. Arter didn’t stop running and he scored on the play.
Copher stole second and went to third on a throwing error, but he was stranded after a strikeout and a fly out.
The Hawks put the finishing touches on their victory with three more runs in the fourth inning. Cardoza led off with a single to left. After a popout, Moon hit a single off the pitcher to put runners at first and second. Cardoza stole third and Moon followed with a steal of second with Jakson Bucher at the plate.
Bucher singled up the middle while Cardoza jogged home. After Arter drew a walk to load the bases. David Williams then watched four balls go by for another walk to force in Bucher for Liberty’s 12th and final run of the game.