By SHAWN YORKS
• Leader & Times
LIBERAL — The Great Bend Panthers are one of the early favorites to make a run at the state championship, and they showed it Tuesday afternoon, sweeping a double-header over the Liberal Redskins, 8-2 and 17-0, in the Western Athletic Conference opener for both teams.
“I feel like Great Bend will probably make it to state,” Liberal head coach Eric Olmstead said. “They’re pretty deep.”
Despite that, Liberal played well in the first game.
“First game I was pleased with how we played, I thought we were right with them,” Olmstead said. “The only difference was with two outs, they drove runs in and we didn’t.”
Six of Great Bend’s eight runs were with two outs in the first game.
Liberal got its runs in the bottom of the third. Down 4-0, Liberal hit four consecutive 2-out singles to score. Freddy Gomez, Jared Hall and Jose Pando each singled to load the bases for Tyson Deaton, who promptly singled in Gomez and Hall to cut it to 4-2.
But that would be all for Liberal on the day. Johnathan Arreano singled in the fourth, Hall in the fifth, Dalton Rutledge in the sixth and Hall again in the seventh as Liberal tried to mount a rally.
Gomez and Hall singled and Deaton reached on an error with two outs, but the Great Bend pitcher got the last two Redskins out to end the game.
Game two was disastrous for the Redskins.
“They had eight hits and 14 runs and we had three errors in the first inning,” Olmstead said. “We could not get out of the first. Everything we threw, they hit.”
Olmstead used three pitchers in the first inning of the second game.
“When we had opportunities to make plays to get out of the inning, we couldn’t convert defensively,” Olmstead said. “They kept hitting.”
Liberal managed four hits in the game, including two from freshman Lorenzo Pando. George Fitzgerald got a hit in his first varsity appearance and also pitched for the Redskins. Gomez also hit a double off the fence for Liberal.
Gomez had a good game in the first game, as well, with two singles in a 2-for-4 performance. He scored one of Liberal’s two runs in the third inning.
“I think he’s playing pretty well right now, to be honest,” Olmstead said. “We moved him to the three hole in game two.”
The Redskins will face Larned on Friday at home, and the JV Redskins will face the Turpin, Okla. varsity on Thursday.
“We’re battling some injuries,” Olmstead said. “Our starting catcher didn’t play, our starting pitcher (in game two) was Jared Hall, our shortstop, and he’s still battling some shoulder issues, so he didn’t make it very far.
“But we’ll be alright, we’ll practice today and tomorrow and be ready for Friday.”