Behind a strong effort on the mound by ace Tyler Wyatt, Peoria Liberty was able to recover from an early deficit as it defeated Cave Creek Cactus Shadows 5-2 in a Division II tournament first-round matchup.
Up next for Liberty is a second-round matchup against Scottsdale Notre Dame on Tuesday.
After a tough end of the season that may have cost it a few spots in the seedings, Liberty got off to a rough start early in the game, committing an error with the bases loaded in the top of the first to give Cactus Shadows the advantage.
Wyatt was able to recover and got out of the rest of the inning unscathed. His team answered in the bottom half of the first. starting with senior center fielder Kyle Anulao. After two quick strikes by Cactus Shadows senior pitcher Jake Colombo, Anulao fouled off multiple two-strike pitches until grooving one for a base hit, then stealing second and taking third on a wild pitch, giving Liberty the jump it needed.
“We’ve had a tough last few weeks.” Liberty coach Mark Ernster said. “Things haven’t been going our way, but it’s a sign of a good team that you can rebound and refocus and get yourselves back together.”
Liberty broke through in the second scoring four runs on four hits, capitalizing on an error.
Spotted a three-run lead after two, the sophomore Wyatt settled in. Wyatt finished with a complete game, allowing six hits, two unearned runs and nine strikeouts to just one walk.
“That’s a sign of him growing up,” Ernster commented of Wyatt’s response to the first inning. “Last year he might have gotten out of control. He’s grown up, he’s understanding that he can’t control anything behind him. He did a good job today.”
Cactus Shadows was unable to get runners aboard after their strong first inning. Only junior second baseman Kyle Brown got on base more than once as he went 2-for-2 with two singles, a walk and a run scored.