But one of the redeeming highlights for the Falcons has been their three-game sweep of Liberty, two of which were come-from-behind victories. Freedom definitely had cause to celebrate May 6 when they slowly clawed back after being down 0-5 in the second inning to a Lion squad that came out on fire, seeking revenge.
“It’s the stuff we’ve been trying to teach the whole year long,” said Freedom Manager Gary Alexander. “These guys just battled and battled and battled. We had some intensity in this game, and it showed. We had no give-up. So I was proud of them, really proud. This one is similar to the first game, when we were down six and came back and beat them. So it goes to show that these kids are not going to give up.”
Lesser teams might have rolled over after that five-run Liberty second inning. It actually started out OK for Falcon freshman pitcher Dante Mays: after giving up a single to Caleb Salas, he struck out the next two batters. But then Salas stole second and Mays lost control of his pitches. One wild pitch sent Salas to third and another sent him home. Three walks, a single and a bases-loaded double by Logan McMahon led to the other four runs.
Freedom immediately got back three runs in the bottom of the second, two of them on a bases-loaded double by Joe Navilhon. But Liberty added two more runs in the top of the third, which prompted Alexander to send in Tymothy Althaus in relief. Althaus proved to be just the ticket, shutting down Liberty for the rest of the game and allowing the Falcons to claw back. Freedom scored a run in the third, two in the fourth and two more in the sixth to take an 8-7 lead and the victory.
The keys to the victory? “I think it was staying in the game the whole time,” said Alexander. “I made a lot of substitutions and people stepped up. Before the game our catcher (Tyler Saude) took one in the mouth, so we had to take him out. Our other catcher is injured. So we had to put a person who hasn’t caught all year, Ryan Petrangelo, behind the plate. He stepped up, did a great job behind there for having not caught. So everybody stepped up. That game was the whole team effort. That’s what made me proud.”
Alexander, asked at the beginning of the season what he expects in this rebuilding year after winning the BVAL and NCS championships last year, said, “I’m hoping for a league championship. I don’t think anything less. I think we’ve got a group of guys that if they come together, I think we can do some damage. The whole thing is being able to gel as a team. We’re young; we’re going to make our mistakes. But, hopefully, we’ll learn from them and can get better.”
The season’s not over, but it doesn’t look like Freedom will repeat as champs this year. Asked last week to reassess how the season has gone, Alexander said, “The season is going exactly like I planned, exactly like I thought it was going to. We were going to take our lumps, and knew we were going to struggle in the beginning and make some mistakes that they are not used to at the varsity level. But I knew we’d learn, we’d grow, and we are playing how I thought we were going to be playing.”
So even if they don’t wear the NCS crown again this year, the Falcons have at least won the baseball equivalent of football’s Bell Game by sweeping Liberty – parallel to what Freedom’s football team accomplished this past season: despite only one victory all season, the Falcons won the prestigious Bell Game. “It is kind of nice,” said Alexander. “They are kind of our rival school, so yeah, it was nice.”
Freedom played at Heritage Tuesday and hosted Pittsburg Thursday. It finishes out its season next week, hosting Deer Valley on Tuesday, May 18 and visiting Antioch on Thursday, May 20. Liberty hosted Deer Valley on Tuesday and visited Antioch on Thursday. The Lions are on the road May 18 at Pittsburg and conclude their season May 20 by hosting Heritage.