Liberty ends storybook season with state baseball title

Among the stories that played out during yesterday’s high school state baseball championships, the most intriguing had to be in 4A-II where a sixth seed and a 12th seed made it to the finals.

But the fact that two low seeds made it that far wasn’t the real story.

It was the win by sixth-seed Liberty High School from Peoria that made the game one for the record books.  Liberty is playing just its second season of varsity baseball, and the 2010 title became the school’s first of any kind in a team  sport.

But just barely.  Liberty’s track team brought home another state championship just hours later.

Liberty (25-6) scored its runs against Greenway HS a little at a time, but with such consistency that, by the time Kyle Benedict slapped his two-run triple in the bottom of the sixth, the game was well in hand and the 8-3 victory goes down in the school’s record books.

The rest of the action in the ‘big-school’ playoff picture revolved, for the most part, around the same sixth inning Liberty used to pull away from Greenway.

In fact, it was almost eerie the way that inning was pivotal to the other title games in 5A and 4A.

Even spookier… each of the other winning teams was ahead by just one run when entering their half of the sixth.

In 4A-I, Saguaro HS wrapped their game up in just six innings in a 15-5 win over Catalina Foothills HS (Tucson).  The Sabercats, the No. 2 seed, were up just one run, 6-5,  going into the bottom of the sixth inning, when a nine-run onslaught finished the game and the title run.

The second-best story of the title games was probably in 5A-I where Desert Ridge HS moved up from 5A-II last year, when it won that division’s championship, to win the title in Division I this year with a 11-4 rout of Mountain Pointe HS.

To add an additional point of interest to this story, Mountain Pointe’s catcher, Kevin Cron, tied a state record for home runs.  His solo shot over the left-field fence in the first inning gave him 21 on the season, equaling the record for all classes.

The sixth inning was the key to both wins.  Just as Saguaro had done, the Jaguars used the sixth to rack up a bunch of runs, six in this case, to pull away from Mountain Pointe.  Again, just like the Saguaro game, Desert Ridge was up just one run before the offensive outburst.

Desert Ridge’s junior pitcher, Scott Hoffman, finished the season without a blemish, throwing a complete game to close his record out at 13-0.

And, finally, in 5A-II, we get the final installment of the ‘sixth-inning curse’ – and a story-line we’re more accustomed to seeing. Horizon HS made it to a sixth-straight finals, winning its third title in four years.  The top-seeded Huskies actually had to come from behind for the 11-9 win over the third-seeded Desert Mountain HS.

But Desert Mountain’s 4-0 lead, which came courtesy of a bases-loaded triple in the second inning by Austin Mill, didn’t last long.  In their half of the second, Horizon showed what it could do with a three-out opportunity, piling up seven runs.

But the Huskies didn’t put the game away until the sixth inning, when Horizon’s Tom Beeso tripled to score two runs and pull away from the slim 8-7 it held to that point.

Four different games, four totally different stories.  One common thread.

I guess you could call the sixth inning the famous ‘six degrees of separation’ that linked all four games in the 2010 baseball championships.

Feel free to use that as a conversation-starter.