Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Liberty’s Trevor Porter reaches down for a pitch to drive it into center for a single during Tuesday’s loss to Immanuel.
The Immanuel-Reedley Eagles scored five runs in the second and didn’t look back to record a 12-1 victory over the Liberty Hawks baseball team in the Firebaugh Preseason Tournament at Liberty.
The Hawks tried to battle, but were saddled by mistakes and an inside-the-park home run gave the Eagles all the runs they needed Tuesday afternoon.
“We have a ton of inexperience on the team,” first year head coach Derrick Kuhn said. “It’s a grinding group. The last three games, we’ve had one play that defined the rest of the game. That has taken the momentum. We have one senior that played last year on the Valley Championship team. We have to clean up the small stuff because we’re not good enough to get away with making three or four mistakes a game.”
The Hawks were limited to just four hits — doubles from Max Vestal and Quaid Copher and singles from Trevor Porter and Jared Dotson — and struck out eight times in the six inning game called because of the 10-run mercy rule.
Malik Cobian was the first of four ptichers and suffered the loss. He allowed six runs, five earned and walked three batters.
“Our ace, Quaid, can’t throw,” Kuhn said. “With him being out, we’ve adopted the opener method to try to get three innings and go to the rest of the staff. This was Jackson’s (Bucher) first outing. He looked fine. He has to tweak up some stuff. We’re short on the bump, right now. We’re relying on young arms to pitch some big games right now.”
Immanuel got on the scoreboard in the first inning with a walk and strikeout. A hit-and-run single to left scored the first run, but Cobian got out of the inning without any more damage.
In the second, Cobian struck out the first two batters, but hit the first of five batters Liberty pitchers plunked in the game.
The next batter hit a fly ball tailing away from right fielder Jared Dotson. Dotson had the ball go off his glove and it rolled to the wall. The Immanuel batter raced around the bases for an inside-the-park two-run home run.
“We had a 1-0 game if we catch the inside-the-park home run,” Kuhn said.
Cobian walked the next batter and hit another to put two runners on. A double steal advanced the runners to second and third and a single drove in two more runs. After a stolen base, walk and error, Immanuel scored another run on a throwing error to take a 6-0 lead.
With one out in the top of the fourth, Immanuel got a double and the next batter reached on an infield single while pitcher Jackson Bucher slipped getting to the ball. The next batter doubled to right-center to drive in two runs. After a flyout, another single drove in the Eagle’s ninth run of the game.
Liberty showed signs of life in the fourth inning. Dylan Whiteman was hit by a pitch with one out. Porter blooped a single to right field to put runners at first and second.
After a popup, Johnny Carillo hit a high chopper up the middle to score Whiteman.
Unfortunately, two pitches later, while Porter was stealing third, Carillo was caught trying to steal second to end the inning.
Immanuel tried to get the game to mercy rule in the fifth, but was thrown out at the plate. The Eagles led off with a single, but was forced at second. A groundout advanced a runner to second and a stolen base put the runner at third.
The Eagles tried a double steal. Catcher Vestal threw to second. Shortstop Copher cut off the throw and threw back to Vestal, who placed the tag on an oncoming runner for the final out of the inning.
However, the Eagles scored three runs in the sixth inning on three hits, two hit batters and an error to record the 12-1 victory.
“With our preseason schedule, we just played two top Div. III teams that are compete for a Valley title this year,” Kuhn said. “We played one of the best Div. V teams and beat a Div. III team in hoover. We’ve been battle-tested, especially with our injuries. It’s the next man up. We’re going to be ready to go for league and it’s going to be fun.”