Liberty softball pitcher Cortney De La Chica didn’t come into Tuesday’s game in the best of moods, she said.
Her frustration mounted as she gave up back-to-back singles to Independence’s Vanessa Cooper and Caitlyn Cromer. After stealing second Cooper came around to score on Cromer’s base hit to center field. She then walked pitcher Jessica Galaviz, which prompted a visit to the circle by Lions catcher Jaclyn Jayo.
“She knows how to cheer me up and that’s what she did,” De La Chica said. “I think I came into the game thinking we had it in the bag. Then I saw they had some game and realized I had to get off my butt. Then (Jayo) talked with me and we decided I needed to have fun with it.”
After Galaviz’s walk in the first inning, De La Chica retired 18 of the final 21 hitters. She walked three in that span and didn’t allow another hit as Liberty (11-7) powered past the Patriots, 9-1.
While the end result looked nice on the score sheet, Liberty coach Kortny Hall was somewhat dissatisfied with how her offense started.
“We started off a little slow but we started to find our pitches and began to stroke the ball,” Hall said. “When we hit, we win games. We come out here wanting to bust our bats from the beginning. If our hitters do that early they usually keep the offense going throughout the game.”
The bats did come alive in the fourth as the Lions sent seven hitters to the plate and scored three runs to turn a 1-run game into a 5-1 lead. While Liberty pushed across just two runs through the first two innings, the hitters made Galaviz work. The Patriot hurler threw 60 pitches through the first three innings, including a 10-pitch at bat in the third by second baseman Taylor Macy.
With Galaviz showing some signs of fatigue, third baseman Anderson Phillips led off with a soft line to first that was dropped. She stole second on a double steal with Nicole Himes and both scored on first baseman Mandy Owen’s bloop single to center field. Owens moved to second on the throw home and De La Chica drove her in with a single up the middle.
Liberty tacked on four more runs in the fifth, including back-to-back triples by Phillips and Jayo. Himes grounded out to the pitcher but collected the RBI as Jayo scored.
Jayo, a junior, was named captain this year and Hall said she provides the spark the team sometimes need.
“The team really looks to her to lead them,” Hall said. “She’s a great motivator by actions and words. The team looks to her and that’s a good things. She’s been really good for us.”
Jayo opened the Lions’ half of the first by getting hit by a pitch. Himes followed with a sacrifice bunt and rather than stopping at second, Jayo blew threw the bag and reached third when Patriots’ short stop Janea Chavez couldn’t handle the throw from Cooper. She tied the game when Chavez failed to come up with Owens’ grounder.
Right fielder Taylor Fitzgerald gave Liberty the lead in the second, reaching on a lead off walk and coming around to score on Jayo’s RBI double.
While Hall said she would like to see her offense get going sooner in games, it’s nice to see her squad hitting again after being stunned by Shadow Ridge 2-0 in nine innings Thursday.
“I think, because we run-ruled them (Tuesday) we were like ‘we have this,’” De La Chica said. “Then we figured out we didn’t. But we came back against Flagstaff and won both of those games’
De La Chica finished with eight strike outs, four walks and was 2-for-4 at the plate. Jayo went 2-for-3 with a double, a triple, two runs score and an RBI. Phillips, out of the No. 9 spot in the order, went 2-for-3 with a triple, two RBI and two runs scored.