SAND HILLS — While it’s true that one season doesn’t make a rivalry, it appears that in the least 2012 was the start of a budding tradition between the baseball programs at Bozeman and Liberty County.
Should that become the standard, then the host Bucks’ 6-1 win Tuesday night in a District 4-1A encounter takes on added importance outside the district implications.
Bozeman, 3-2, executed well for a game played in late February and punctuated the victory with a key double play that thwarted a response by the Bulldogs, 4-1, in the fifth inning.
“Tonight we played solid, those two pitchers (David Black and JoJo Durden) got them to the Final Eight last year,” Bozeman coach Jeff Patton said. “The difference is we made it tough on them.
“It was the start of the district schedule today and I thought we pitched well. Reed Ruddick and Matt Hall threw great.”
Ruddick was the winning pitcher, allowing only two hits until faltering in the fifth when Liberty County scored its run to narrow the gap to 3-1.
The bases were loaded with one out when Patton moved Hall to the mound, second baseman Logan Strausbaugh to shortstop and inserted Austin Priester at second. It took about 10 seconds for Hall to make Patton look clairvoyant as he induced a ground ball on which Priester started a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
When Bozeman responded against Durden, who had no-hit them in the district championship game last spring, the Bucks gained a measure of revenge by putting five consecutive baserunners aboard and expanding the lead to 5-1. That basically settled the outcome as Hall pitched a 1-2-3 sixth and worked out of a minor jam in the seventh.
“He’s done that since he was a sophomore,” Patton said. “He could go out there and start, but he just seems calm in a bases-loaded situation.”
Patton also praised Ruddick, but said the sophomore was beginning to lose command in the fifth inning. Ruddick hit No. 9 batter Chase Taylor with a pitch, walked Dustin Watson and Hunter Jacobs drove in a run with one of his two hits. Hayden Swier’s single loaded the bases and brought on Hall.
Bozeman avenged its district defeat to Liberty County, the teams split four games, by beating the Bulldogs on the road to gain their first Final Four appearance in school history. Against Durden this time, Hall walked, Strausbaugh and Alec Aleywine singled to load the bases and Ruddick was hit by a pitch to force in a run.
Christian Dillahey followed with one of his two singles to make it 5-1 before Swier relieved and struck out the side. He duplicated that feat in the sixth, but the Bucks reached him for a run on pinch hitter Lucas Carter’s pinch-hit single and three walks.
Bozeman scored in the first inning when Hall led off with a single and eventually came around on Aleywine’s groundout. It became 3-0 in the fourth when Black weakened and singles by Dillahey and eighth-grader Nicky Agosto combined with two walks and a balk to bring home two runs.
The Bucks committed one error, by Strausbaugh, who atoned by both starting and being the middle man on two 4-6-3 double plays. Noah Davis also had two hits for Liberty County, which only managed five for the game but was errorless in the field.
The junior varsity game ended in an extra inning 2-2 deadlock.
- Liberty Co. 000 010 x — 1 5 0
- Bozeman 100 221 x — 6 7 1
- Black (L), Durden (5), Swier (5) and Taylor; Ruddick (W), Hall (5) and Thompson.
- LOB: Liberty County 7, Bozeman 9. E: Bozeman 1 (Strausbaugh). Sac: Strausbaugh. SB: Suttles 2, Aleywine, Hall. DP: Bozeman 2 (4-6-3, 4-6-3). HBP: Taylor (by Ruddick), Ruddick (By Durden), Jacobs (by Hall). Balk: Black 2. WP: Black, Ruddick. PB: Taylor.