For West Valley Preps
The Kellis Cougars are playing their best baseball of the year at just the right time.
The No. 13 Cougars met up with the No. 1 Liberty Lions this evening in the third round of the state 5A double elimination tournament coming out on top against their favored district rival 7-2.
This is the time of the year when focus and execution are key and the Cougars fresh off a 3-2 pitchers duel win against No. 5 Mesquite on Tuesday know this. In less than a week Kellis has knocked off Verrado, Mesquite and Liberty, three of the top five teams in 5A.
“One thing I stressed after the game is that we can’t get to high on this win because the next game we’ll be playing Liberty again or Mesquite who is really good as well,” said Kellis Head Coach Michael Deardoff. That’s how it works in double elimination. On any given day, against the same team the game can yield different results.
“Whichever team plays the cleanest game will probably win,” Coach Deardoff said. “We played them earlier in the year and they beat us 7-5. We just made more mistakes than them and they simply outplayed us.”
By winning this time around, the Cougars have the advantage of waiting a week and resting their pitching, while Mesquite and Liberty square off Tuesday.
In this evening matchup the Lions did themselves no favors. In the top of the fourth with runners on first and third, Liberty switched pitchers sending starter Isaiah Montoya to the dug out in favor of sophomore Chandler Murphy.
Liberty was unable to consistently keep the Cougars from singling down the third base line in the fifth and made two errant throws from third to first giving Kellis easy base runners. In that same inning a passed ballr led to a give me Kellis score.
The Cougars went up 5-2 in the fifth and kept Liberty scoreless for the remainder of the game. In a case of juxtaposition, with Liberty having the bases loaded Kellis’ third baseman Damien MacElroy made a heads up play in the sixth tagging out the runner coming from second while sparing just enough time to rocket the ball to the catcher at home plate for a double play to close out the inning.
The leader on Kellis efforts, ace Adrian Salazar, pitched all seven innings of the ball game, allowing only two runs on seven Liberty hits. To do this against a stout Lions batting line-up that has put up 27 runs in their first two games of the championship tournament was impressive. Salazar now has six days rest.
“He’s usually good to go on shorter rest and bounces back really well. Getting this extended time is just going to be beneficial for him. Plus, it will be nice to get a break because this whole week has been high emotion and high intensity,” Coach Deardoff said.
Liberty squares off with Mesquite in an elimination game at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in Maryville Baseball Stadium in Phoenix.