By Rustin Watt
• Leader & Times
In a 13-11 contest, Haysville had the bases loaded with two outs in the ninth. Haysville’s Crispin Tarango had a full count, and despite four home runs on the night for Liberal, the game rested on one pitch. Fans stood up and clapped as closer Cale Elam threw the pitch. Tarango drove the ball to the center field fence, and Micah Green turned, sprinted and made the catch on the run near the warning track. Liberal held on for the win.
“We had the guy we wanted on the mound,” Bee Jays coach Chris Joblin said. “Cale Elam — He’s done a really good job for us, and he did a real good job tonight and got the save. It’s obviously nerve-racking as a coach, coming down to the wire. You’re trying to think of every situation, maybe making a move, maybe not, and in that situation you have to stick with the guy that’s been successful. Cale has been, and he was tonight. It’s nerve racking, but it’s what you play for, to be in those situations. To see what you’re made of and we were fortunate enough to come out on top tonight.”
The game was tied at three in the fourth before an errant throw and a slide below catcher Toby Semler’s tag put Haysville up 5-3.
In the bottom of the fourth, momentum swung back to Liberal. Green started by stretching a single into a double. Ross Kivett walked, and Quay Grant hit a hard hopper on the ground that skipped over the second baseman.
The Haysville outfielders mistook it for a routine ball and di not back up second, and the ball skirted to the fence to score two runs with Grant hustling to third base for a sliding triple.
First baseman Blake Bergeron scored Grant with a single up the middle before Jake Barrios laced one off the fence in left field for a double moving Bergeron to third.
With Liberal leading 6-5, Reyn Nagamine stepped in, and bad went to worse for the Heat. Nagamine hit a home run over left field for a three-run blast.
Worse then turned dismal for Haysville. Semler took a solo shot over the left-field fence to put Liberal up 10-5 following the back-to-back jacks.
A two run Heat blast made it 10-7 in the fifth. Liberal quickly distanced themselves with a Kivett triple to right-center field.
An RBI single by Grant scored Kivett before Bergeron found the sweet spot for a two-run drive over the center-field fence. Liberal went in to the sixth with a 13-7 lead.
The Heat began to chip away at the Liberal lead, and the Bee jays would have to protect their 13 runs since they did not score the rest of the game.
Another solo home run for Haysville in the sixth was followed by an RBI single in the seventh.
A solo shot in the eighth followed by a walk ended Tyler Rockafellow’s night early on just two batters. Cale Elam then made his way to the hill and sat down the next three Heat hitters.
The ninth wouldn’t prove to be as easy for Elam.
Haysville tested the Shocker’s moxy. The Heat loaded the bases with only one out. Elam walked in a run before forcing Scott Palmer to pop out to Grant at third base. Terango stepped in with two outs, bases loaded, and got ahead of Elam 3-1. An Elam pitch skimmed the strike zone as Terango flipped his bat and began taking off his ankle guard, a strike was called.
The whole night came down to one pitch and Elam came up clutch again for Liberal. Elam escaped the jam and earned the save as Terango drove the ball to Green who ran it down and sealed the deal for Liberal in a 13-11 win.
“Hit it to me,” Grant said on the situation. “That’s what you got to say to yourself. If you don’t, the ball will be by you and it’s game over. Definitey ‘hit it to me’ attitudes here. You got to have it. Cale did an awesome job. He’s a competitor and he’ll be on T.V. one day. He’s an awesome guy and a great guy to play with.”
Liberal moved to 24-10 following the win and 14-9 in the Jayhawk. Haysville has a half-game lead over the Bee Jays after the weekend.
Despite the win Sunday night, Liberal fell 18-3 Saturday night.
“It’s baseaball,” Grant said. “You see it all the time ... It’s big ball here. We’re playing with guys that are studs on every team. One through nine, you have to compete. It’s just one of those things. You just have to put it in the past. That’s why we play baseball, we always have tomorrow.”
Liberal will be off today before heading to Derby Tuesday night.