Coming into the 5A state playoffs, Kellis earned a No. 13 seed and faced a tough push in the state playoffs, and with upsets of No. 4 Verrado (11-1 in the first round) and No. 5 Mesquite (3-2 in second round), they faced a battle with No. 1 Liberty May 4.
The Cougars continued their playoff run with a 7-2 victory over Liberty, sending the Cougars into a semifinal matchup May 11 against Mesquite and Liberty winner in the loser’s bracket May 9.
“One thing I have stressed after the game is that we can’t get too high on this win, because the next game we’ll be playing Liberty again, or Mesquite again and they really are good teams,” said Kellis head coach Michael Deardoff. “That’s how it works in double elimination. On any given day, against the same team, the game can yield different results.”
The two teams exchanged runs in the second and third, before Kellis broke the game open in the fifth and two in the sixth to seal the victory.
“Whichever team plays the cleanest game will probably win,” Coach Deardoff said. “We played (Liberty) earlier in the season and they beat us 7-5. We just made more mistakes than them in that game and they simply outplayed us. Today, things were on our side.”
Kellis starting pitcher Adrian Salazar, pitched a complete game, allowing two runs on seven hits, shutting down a powerful Liberty offense that struggled after pushing 27 runs across the plate in the first two playoff games. Jusin Flebbe and Damien McElroy delivered RBI in a three-run fifth inning that broke a 2-2 tie. Adrian Salazar went the distance, scattering eight hits and blanking Liberty over the final four innings. It was his third postseason win.
Deardoff said Salazar, who is expected to start the next Cougars game, could use the extra rest this win allots them.
“(Salazar) is usually good to go on shorter rest and bounces back really well. Getting this extended time is just going to be beneficial for him. Plus, it will be nice to get a break, because this whole week has been high emotion and high intensity,” Deardoff said.
Six different Cougars drove in runs, with McElroy leading the offense with three hits in the win.
Liberty plays Mesquite 6:30 p.m. May 9 at Maryville Baseball Stadium in Phoenix, with the winner advancing to the semifinal matchup against Kellis May 11 at Tempe Diablo Stadium.