When Santa Barbara (Calif.) Foresters pitcher Bryce Uhrig took the mound in the top of the ninth inning on Saturday night, Liberal BeeJays manager John Martin pulled aside first baseman Blake Bergeron.
Liberal had a three-run lead in the National Baseball Congress World Series winners bracket game, but Bergeron had done little at the plate against three previous pitchers. He'd grounded out in the first, then grounded into a double play, flied out to center and popped up to first. It wasn't the kind of night Liberal's No. 3 hitter wanted to have.
"I'd been getting jammed all night," Bergeron said."... I kind of was (frustrated), but my coach came up to me while they were changing pitchers and he gave me a speech that took my mind off it. We were talking hunting all day. 'You've only got one shot at that deer. You have to take your shot.' "
The pep talk worked and Bergeron took an 0-1 fastball over the left field wall for a grand slam. Liberal defeated Santa Barbara 8-2 at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
"I put good barrel on the baseball," said Bergeron, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound sophomore at Nicholls State. "Nothing better. Best feeling I've had in a long time. To give our pitcher a little bit of breathing room, it was good to have eight runs behind us."
Liberal pitcher Paul Gonzalez gave up a solo homer in the second inning to Santa Barbara's Walker Moore, giving the Foresters the 1-0 lead. But that was one of the few mistakes Gonzalez made.
Gonzalez threw eight innings, giving up five hits, walking three and striking out seven.
"You have to give their pitcher credit," Foresters manager Bill Pintard said. "He shut us down. His offspeed stuff was tremendous. We couldn't make adjustments to him. Usually we're a good hitting club, but he didn't allow us to make adjustments."
Gonzalez' pitching impressed Martin, too.
"His key is to stay down in the zone, and when he does that, he's able to stay on top of his cutter," Martin said. "He actually had a really good changeup tonight and that helped. He pitched backwards a little bit and kept them on their heels."
Liberal got some help from Santa Barbara, too.
The BeeJays had tied the score 1-1 when David Masters scored on an error by shortstop Shane Kroker. After taking the lead in the fifth on a run by Nick Cocking, a Maize native who is a sophomore at Kansas State, the BeeJays took advantage of two multiple errors in the sixth to score two runs for the 4-1 lead.
"We struggled defensively," Pintard said. "We felt we gave them some extra outs there. We felt we didn't play sharp, we didn't play crisp. It should have been a 1-1 ballgame, and we kicked some balls away and they took advantage."
With a runner on first, Liberal's Richard Bohlken hit a grounder to second. It was a routine double-play ball but Michael Ratterree bobbled the ball and dropped it, allowing Konnoff to reach second. He still had time to get Bohlken at first, but he bobbled it again and didn't make a throw.
David Masters hit a grounder to third and Santa Barbara got the forceout at second, but an errant throw to first kept the inning alive. That set up Cocking, who hit a grounder to second base. Again Ratterree committed an error, allowing two runs to score.
"You could really feel the momentum right there," Cocking said. "It was kind of just shifting either way. Both teams could take it. Just that one-run lead. I wanted to just pus h some runs across, just to help out.