High strikes and an aggressive opposing offense are a recipe for disaster, and so it was for the Liberty baseball team.
The Patriots surrendered seven runs in the first two innings and never seemed able to stop the Mount Vernon Yellow Jackets’ offense all game long, as the visitors racked up a lopsided 15-3 victory over Liberty on a cold, windy Thursday at Liberty High School.
“You’ve got to give Mount Vernon a lot of credit,” Liberty coach Ty Brenning said. “They hit the ball hard. Their kids were very aggressive at the plate, they put the ball in play and made us earn every out, and add that to a bad combination of us elevating the ball in the strike zone and not making a few basic plays defensively. We definitely didn’t do ourselves any favors by kicking the ball around.”
Liberty (4-2) had to deal not only with Mount Vernon’s (2-6) potent offensive attack which rapped out 19 hits off Patriot pitching, but also a heavy, bone-chilling wind blowing out to left center field. Both teams combined for four home runs on the day, three off Mount Vernon bats.
“There was no doubt it was a windy day, but both teams were playing in the same field conditions,” Brenning said. “We were just as likely to benefit from it as they did.”
Combine the Mount Vernon offense with a strong pitching performance from Yellow Jackets starter Nick Hoar, who allowed just two runs over five innings with four walks and six strikeouts, and things were tough all day for the host team.
“Give Hoar a lot of credit,” Brenning said. “He kept us off-balance. We had seven strikeouts and that’s a high for us this year. We’ve typically put the ball in play pretty well through our first five games, but you’ve got to give him a lot of credit.”
Mount Vernon jumped into the lead when leadoff hitter Riley Swanson drilled a homer to left center field on the second pitch of the game. Mount Vernon struck for all they needed in the second inning, scoring six times off Liberty starter Max Gunn.
Liberty got a run back in the third. Junior outfielder Louis Firmstone hit a one-out single on the infield and took second on a walk to freshman catcher Cameron Comer. Both runners moved up on a wild pitch, and senior second baseman Zach Glaze hit a ground ball to short to get Firmstone home.
But Mount Vernon negated the run in the fourth and chased Gunn with three singles, including an RBI hit from Shawn Maxwell that scored Ryan Goetzman from third.
Liberty would score again in the fifth when Firmstone drew a one-out walk, took third on a single to right by Glaze, and scored when senior designated hitter Brandon Parr singled to right.
But the Yellow Jackets would plate two runs in the sixth off senior reliever Christian Watson, then scored five times in the seventh off junior Alec Snider, including back-to-back homers, a three-run shot by Maxwell, and a solo blast by defensive replacement Brandon Dobbs.
Snider helped his cause in the bottom of the seventh with his own home run down the left field line, but the Patriots could get no more.
Gunn took the loss, allowing seven earned runs, 11 hits and a walk with two strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings. Watson worked the next 2 1/3 innings, giving up an earned run an four hits, and Snider allowed four earned runs, four hits and a walk with one strikeout.
“Christian came in and gave us a couple zeroes,” Brenning said. “He kept us in it for a while and gave us a shot, but the bottom line is we have to pound the bottom of the strike zone and get better in all facets of the game if we’re going to compete in the OCC.”
Comer was the only Patriot with two hits in the game, one a first-inning double. Snider added his seventh-inning solo homer, while Firmstone and Parr had a single and RBI each. Glaze, juniors Tyler Welch and Josh Akerman, and sophomore Mitchell Griffiths also had a single apiece.
Maxwell and Swanson topped the Mount Vernon offense with four hits each. Maxwell with a home run and game-high six RBIs, and Swanson adding his solo shot plus two doubles.
C.J. Atherton worked the final two innings for Mount Vernon, giving up an earned run and three hits with one strikeout.