By Lori Brown
LIBERTY The Liberty Indians hosted the Eldred Yellowjackets on Tuesday afternoon in a non-league baseball game.
The game was very close and at the end of seven innings of competitive play, Eldred earned a 7-6 victory.
Eldred (2-6) took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Bryan Henry crossed home plate.
After a scoreless second inning, the Yellowjackets added a run in the top of the third. Mike Walton scored on Bobby Warden’s single. Warden tried to stretch his hit into a double, but was tagged out at second base.
In the bottom of the third, Liberty (3-12) scored a run to cut the Yellowjackets’ lead to 2-1. With two outs, Chris Lake reached first base on an error and then stole second base. Jordan Fedun slammed a double down the third base line to bring home Lake.
During the top of the fourth, Eldred extended its lead by scoring four runs. Ian Halloran, Matt Balcom, Dylan Kulik and Pat Reiser all crossed home plate to give the Yellowjackets a 6-1 advantage. One of the key hits in the frame was Kulik’s triple to deep right field.
However, the Indians did not give up and answered with four runs in the bottom of the fourth.
Robbie Benzenberg started the inning off with a double to right center field. Moments later, Tino Casiano singled to left field to bring home Benzenberg. Jesse Hufinagel continued the Liberty rally with a single and Joe Franke followed with a single which allowed Casiano to score.
Lake ripped a single to load the bases with two outs.
Fedun blasted the ball to left field for a triple, which brought home Hufinagel and Franke. Lake also tried to score on Fedun’s triple, but was tagged out at home plate.
Still, the Indians had closed their deficit to only one run at 6-5.
The score remained the same until the bottom of the sixth.
Ricky Franke reached base due to an error. Hufinagel scored on the play to even the game at 6-6.
With two outs in the top of the seventh, the Yellowjackets were able to break the tie. Ian Halloran drew a walk and the next batter, Matt Balcom, ripped a double to left center field to send Halloran home with the go-ahead run.
The Liberty pitcher, Casiano, struck out the next batter to hold Eldred to a 7-6 lead.
In the bottom of the seventh, Casiano hit a two-out single to keep the inning going. Hufinagel then extended the frame by reaching on an error. The next batter, Joe Franke, made great contact with a pitch, but the Yellowjackets’ center fielder caught the ball to end the game.
“We knew going into the game, it was going to be close,” Eldred Coach Frank Kean said. “We are on the same talent level.
“We gave them a break in the fourth inning when they scored two runs when no catch was made in the outfield,” he continued. “We have a young team. We only have three seniors.”
Kean praised pitcher Mike Walton for earning his second win of the season.
“He keeps batters off balance,” the veteran coach said.
Walton, Henry and Warden each went 2-for-4, while Warden had two RBIs. Balcom was 3-for-4 with a double.
“We made too many errors,” Liberty Coach John Wilhelm said. “We make the same mistakes over and over.”
Casiano, a freshman pitcher in his first season on the varsity level, recorded six strikeouts.