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By Rod Thornburg/ Special to The Californian
BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
It was the sort of onslaught Stockdale is used to delivering to other teams, but this time, the Mustangs were the ones left stewing on the outfield grass while Liberty sauntered out with a statement baseball victory.
The Patriots scored an 11-4 victory Thursday, but that doesn't even tell the whole story: They scored 11 runs before Stockdale had its third hit and finished off a week in which they scored 25 runs off of the Mustangs' talented pitching staff.
"We're fortunate right now," Liberty coach Tony Mills said. "We're doing a lot of things well, and we're starting to develop a lot of positive consistency. That's real good for us."
It started with line-drive singles from Christian Sinnott and A.J. Jackopin in a two-run first inning, but the bats really exploded in the second. With two on and one out, Tyler Raper blasted a first-pitch curveball over the right-field wall.
"I just knew he was going to start me with a hanging curveball," said Raper, who was 2-for-3 with four RBIs. "I got it, and I just swung."
A Kaidan Meadows single chased Stockdale starter Josh Stone, but the hits kept coming. Ross Puskarich made it 7-0 with a two-run double in the second, and Liberty rallied for two runs in the third and two more in the fourth for a stunning 11-0 lead on one of the Central Section's perennial powers.
Liberty finished with 16 hits, and every batter reached base at least twice.
"We've been swinging well the last two weeks; we just finally found some holes," Raper said. "Our lineup's solid all the way through. We don't have any strengths or weakenesses."
After Liberty starter Meadows cruised through four innings, Stockdale scratched across three runs in the fifth. But that was too late and much too little.
"You could have never told me that this team would lay down, and we laid down twice this week," Stockdale coach Dan Lemon said. "We didn't show up prepared to get after it, and some of these guys need to really check themselves and figure things out."
There is a ton left to decide in the regular season's final three weeks.
The Patriots (14-8) have inserted themselves into the thick of the crowded Southwest Yosemite League race. Their two-game sweep of Stockdale (14-7) brings them to 5-4 in league play, a game back of the 6-3 Mustangs. Centennial is 5-3 pending Saturday's game with Independence, and Frontier also is 5-4.
Yep, that's four teams within a game of each other, with 4-5 Bakersfield just two games out of first.
"It's anybody's league," Mills said. "There's so many good baseball programs that are in the SWYL. We're lucky to get two wins from a quality team this week."