Mondays game was the ninth this summer between Liberal and Dodge City, and the teams shared an extensive prior knowledge of each other that seemingly kept either from having an advantage.
Dodge City found an edge, however, by starting left-handed pitcher Derek Justice, whom the team picked up prior to the National Baseball Congress World Series and with whom Liberal had no familiarity.
That slight superiority was all Dodge City needed to win the rubber game between the teams 7-2 in an NBC elimination game at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. Justice and Brennen Flaherty, another new pitcher previously unseen by the Bee Jays, got the first 20 outs for the As.
They beat Liberal starter Dalton Bernardi, who made a handful of appearances against Dodge City in Jayhawk League play. The teams split their eight league games and both teams went 19-15 in the league.
"They didnt know (Justice) and they didnt know the first guy we brought in relief (Flaherty)," Dodge City manager Phil Stephenson said. "I just felt that might give us an advantage to some degree.
"Wed seen Bernardi three or four times a couple times as a starter and a couple times in relief and thats kind of how its worked. Hes been really good on us early, and then about the second or third time through the lineup wed find a way to get some runs against him. That pattern held true tonight."
Bernardi looked to be using the Dodge City hitters knowledge of him against them as he struck out the side in order in the first and four of the first six batters overall.
Justice was equally strong, facing the minimum over 2 2/3 innings before surrendering a solo home run to Liberals No. 9 hitter John Sigado on a first-pitch fastball. Justice, who the As added to the roster after he pitched in Virginia, lasted seven innings and allowed at least one baserunner in the final five.
But the Bee Jays managed one run after Sigados homer, getting to Justice and Flaherty for three hits in the seventh but leaving the bases loaded on Tanner Raineys fly out to center to end the inning.
"First time Ive seen him pitch," Dodge City infielder Ivan Sigala said of Justice. "We just picked him up, but we picked him up for a reason. He came in and threw pretty well, and we got him runs and we got the win."
Sigados homer didnt cancel out his struggles at third base in Dodge Citys three-run seventh inning. The As were nursing a 2-1 lead when Taylor Drake reached on Sigagos first error. Drake scored three batters later on Cole Davis ground-rule double.
Sigado also was unable to handle a pop fly near the pitchers mound that could have gotten Liberal out of the seventh. It hit off the heel of his glove and the next batter, Bryant Burleson, drove in Davis with a single.
After Dodge Citys 2-1 loss to St. Joseph (Mo.) on Saturday, Stephenson lamented his teams lack of offense. Three of their five runs were unearned on Monday, but the As made the most of many of their RBI situations.
"Youve got to score when you get opportunities," Stephenson said. "Tonight, we did that. There were still a couple of opportunities that we left on the board where we could have scored an extra run or two. But Ill take five in this situation, especially when we pitched the way we did."