CARROLL – Longtime Liberty Union coach Bill Putnam had a good feeling after watching his team take batting practice before they made the trip to Bloom-Carroll on Wednesday.
He especially felt good with the way Jaycee Crouch was hitting the ball, but that was pregame batting practice. Facing the country’s top-ranked pitcher in Taran Alvelo is another thing.
“We were really hitting it good before we came over here, and Jaycee was really pounding the ball in batting practice,” Putnam said.
Putnam’s feeling was dead-on as Crouch hit a two-strike, solo home run in the second inning off Alvelo, and Liberty senior pitcher Alyssa Moore held the Bulldogs to just one hit to make it stand.
The Lions’ confidence grew each inning, and they were able to hang on with a runner at third base in the bottom of the seventh to pull off a big-time 1-0 upset over the nationally ranked Bulldogs, who are also the top-ranked team in the state in Division III.
It was Bloom-Carroll’s first loss of the season as it slips to 7-1 overall and 4-1 in the Mid-State League-Buckeye Division. Liberty Union improved to 4-5, 1-2.
“It is so overwhelming and we are all so excited,” Moore said. “We needed a win like this because we have kind of been struggling, but we all really played together out there. I have to give a lot of credit to my catcher, Kelly Mix. She calls all my pitches, and she called a great game.
“We were really cramming them inside, and it worked. I put everything in Kelly’s hands.”
Moore wasn’t overwhelming, as she finished with only two strikeouts, but she forced 16 groundouts. Liberty Union’s third baseman, Kailey Bolinger and shortstop, Crouch, had a combined 12 putouts.
“(Moore) pitched really well,” Bloom-Carroll coach Choc Woods said. “She kept the ball down, and we kept beating it into the ground. I was surprised we didn’t hit the ball, but she kept us off balance.
“We were flat and we have a target on our backs and we just didn’t get it done. Taran pitched really well, but we just didn’t back her up with enough hits.”
Crouch, a junior, who had two of the three hits that Alvelo gave up, said she was expecting a rise ball when she hit her home run.
“She had been throwing me high, and I was expecting more of a higher ball because that is what she usually throws me,” Crouch said. “But she threw it low, and I just went with it. It hit the sweet spot and felt really good when it left the bat.”
Hunter Gladman had the Bulldogs’ only hit in the second inning with two outs. The only other time Bloom-Carroll had a runner on base was the fourth inning, when Kipley Detwiler reached on a one-out error. She was left stranded after back-to-back groundouts.
Alvelo hit a towering shot in the bottom of the seventh inning that would have tied the game, but it was just foul. She ended up walking. Tessa Decker pinch-ran for Alvelo. A groundout moved her to second, and she reached third on the play after short run down. But Moore got the next batter to ground out to end the game.
Alvelo finished with 11 strikeouts and one walk.