By JEREMIAH WILSON
• Leader & Times
The Liberal Bee Jays suffered a heart-breaking 11-inning, 8-7 loss Friday night at Brent Gould Field in the opening game of a three-game series with the El Dorado Broncos.
The Bee Jays had no trouble finding ways to score through the first five innings. Over the last six innings however, Liberal could barely find a way to get on base.
Tyler Wiedenfeld pitched five solid innings to start the game, but would not factor in the outcome.
Liberal opened the game strong, scoring two runs in the home-half of the first for a 2-0 lead.
Seth Stevens scored Tanner Kirk with a single and later scored on a Tyler Floyd double.
Wiedenfeld allowed his first run of the game in the third, and the Bee Jays led 2-1 after three.
Floyd came in to score on a Zack Reding ground out for a 3-1 Bee Jay lead in the fourth, and Tanner Rainey scored on a Darien McLemore single for a 4-1 lead.
Kirk scored from third on a bizarre pick-off attempt that resulted in a balk, and Liberal had a 5-1 lead.
El Dorado scored two in the top of the fifth off of Wiedenfeld to make it 5-3.
John Mestas scored on an error to open up the bottom of the fifth for Liberal.
With two outs in the fifth, Floyd stole home, and the Bee Jays were up 7-3 after five.
Reliever Jose Rosales-Rodarte entered the game in the sixth with a four-run cushion. That cushion was soon deflated. He allowed four runs on five hits and an error in the sixth, and the game was tied, 7-7.
The four-run cushion was not all that was deflated by the Bronco rally. The Liberal offense came crashing to a halt.
The Bee Jays found a way to get a runner on in the bottom of the sixth with one out. They did not have another base runner until a one-out double to center by Dahl in the 10th.
Austin King allowed a Bronco run in the top of the 11th.
Stevens and Mestas were both able get on board with a pair of singles to center, but Liberal could not score and fell 8-7 in a must-win game.
Despite putting seven runs up on the board, the Bee Jay hitters never really get going Friday night. The seven, eight and nine hitters for Liberal were a combined 2-for-14.
The Bee Jays were out-hit by the Broncos 20-to-7 on the night.
“They’ve got strong bullpen,” Liberal manager Brandon Kitch said. “Their bullpen is very good. They compete, and you’ve got to tip your cap to them. They chipped away and did a good job of holding us.”
The game was especially rough on the Bee Jays pitching staff, as Trevor Lundgrin left the game in eighth with an elbow injury.
“We had to burn a lot of pitching yesterday,” Kitch said. “We need (Justin) Bethard to go deep Saturday night.”
The game was the fourth of the season between these two teams, with all four games resulting in a one-run loss for Liberal.
The loss essentially eliminates the Bee Jays from getting an automatic bid to the NBC World Series. They are still eligible to receive an at-large bid, but will probably need to win the rest of their remaining games to receive consideration.
“We’ve got to keep competing,” Kitch said. “We can still win the series and that’s a big thing for us.”