By Stephen Buus (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Stockton — This time, the Liberal Lady Bulldogs had to work a little harder.
After back-to-back 15-0 victories, both in three innings, in the first two rounds of the District 12 softball tournament at Stockton, Liberal was extended to the bottom of the sixth by the hometown Lady Tigers, but the Bulldogs still claimed their third consecutive championship Wednesday on the run rule by the final score of 10-0.
Senior pitcher Delanie Freeze held Stockton to three hits while striking out 12 and walking none.
“We all played tough and did our best,” Freeze said in sharing the credit with her teammates. “My mindset was just to get them their pitch and do what we can.”
Only one Lady Tiger reached third base, as Charity Clayton wound up there after an overthrow by third baseman Mallory Gazaway in the top of the third.
Gazaway atoned for the error with a 2-run homer to left-center field that made it 9-0 at the time. She also had a double in the third.
“It was pretty cool,” Gazaway said of her four-bagger. “I just like to be up there to give ‘Dee’ (Freeze) some extra runs, so that’s always nice.”
Jaci Coleman also played a key offensive role with 2 RBI and 2 runs scored. Kaylee Daniels delivered the walk-off RBI with two out in the sixth on a single which scored Sydnee Hood.
Meanwhile, Freeze was intentionally walked four times, as Stockton’s Kaitlyn Creek wanted no part of the senior’s power.
Liberal coach Brandi Goodell said, “I told her yesterday after the way she’s been hitting the ball this week, ‘You’re not going to see a pitch tomorrow, you’d better be ready for it.’ Then Jaci comes out and draws two unintentional walks.”
For Stockton, who had to rally from three runs down in the bottom of the seventh to beat Greenfield 9-8 in the semifinal the night before, the shutout was devastating.
“It’s tough,” was all Lady Tiger coach Lisa Kenney had to say.
“We knew it was going to be a little rough tonight,” said Goodell. “They had a close one last night, but I wasn’t expecting them to come out the way they did yesterday.
“Their shortstop [Harlly Gray] is good and their center fielder [Kaytlyn Millard] played great. She made a couple really good catches out there.
“The defense is pretty good, but we just took advantage. Some of the bottom of our order really helped us out by getting hits with the middle of our order drawing some walks, so it was big. To get 10 runs against that team and not have our 4- and 5-hitters do much other than draw six walks says a lot about how good our lineup can be.”
Liberal will host Spring River Valley Conference rival Pierce City in the sectional round at 5 p.m. Monday. The Bulldogs topped the Eagles 7-2 in the regular season, but Pierce City won last year’s sectional 2-0.
“We’re excited it’s at home,” said Goodell. “Pierce City is a rematch from last year. We’ve been there twice now, this will be our third chance to win a sectional game. Third time’s the charm, right?”
Stockton (9-9) 000 000— 0 3 4
Liberal (23-3) 014 131—10 6 1
Kaitlyn Creek & Lauren Rhodes; Delanie Freeze & Brook Bearden
Hits: Stockton—Amie Garver, Rhodes (2B), Katie Hedrick. Liberal—Kaylee Daniels, Taylor Ray, Mallory Gazaway 2 (2B, HR), Sydnee Hood, Gracie Bott.