Hawks hold off for semifinal berth
With the bases loaded, the Atascadero Greyhounds baseball team had a chance to pull off the upset against top seed Liberty. However, the Liberty Hawks got the final two outs to advance to the semifinals of the Div. IV Central Section championships.
Liberty’s Jakson Bucher went to the mound with two on in the seventh. After he struck out a batter, he walked another to load the bases. He struck out the No. 3 batter and got the clean-up batter to pop out to Nate Medina in shallow left for the final out of the game to secure an 8-7 victory Thursday at Liberty.
The Hawks will host No. 5 Madera South in the semifinals Tuesday with a Central section championship game berth on the line.
Liberty banged out nine hits in the win, including four extra base hits. Six different players, led by Nate Medina, Bucher and Hudson Groh with two each. Bucher added a double, Medina scored two runs, drove in two and hit a triple and Groh scored two runs and drove in another.
The Hawks got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the second inning. Medina started the rally with a single up the middle. Matthew Prado drew a walk. Xavier Gordon grounded out, but Prado and Medina advanced 90 feet.
Groh singled to right and advanced to second on the first of Atascadero’s five errors. Medina scored on the single and Prado followed by scoring on the error. Danny Sandante reached on another error that allowed Groh to score for a 3-0 lead.
Bucher led off the third inning with a single and stole second. Max Vestal was hit by a pitch. Medina then hit a liner into the right field corner to drive in Bucher and Vestal while Medina went to third for a triple. Two batters later, Gordon doubled over the centerfielder’s head to drive in Medina for a 6-0 lead.
Atascadero battled back with four runs in the fourth inning. The Greyhounds started the rally with two walks and an error to load the bases. Then, the next four batters reached base and Atascadero cut the lead to 6-4.
The Hawks added two insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth, and they needed all of them.
With one out in the fifth, Gordon reached on an error. Two batters later, Groh singled home Gordon, who stole second. Danny Sandante to put runners at the corners. Smith doubled home Groh for an 8-4 lead.
The Greyhounds scored three runs in the sixth on an error, double and back-to-back singles to cut the lead to one.
In the seventh, Atascadero’s bottom of the order started a rally. The lead-off batter was hit by a pitch and the No. 9 batter drew a walk. After a strikeout, Atascadero drew another walk to load the bases.
However, a strikeout and a popout secured the Liberty victory.