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Liberty advances in region baseball playoffs with walk-off win — PHOTOS

In a tied Class 5A Southern Region elimination playoff game between Liberty and Las Vegas High, one swing of the bat was going to change the momentum and keep someone’s state title hopes alive Tuesday.

Center fielder Jacob Damore came up with the hit Liberty needed to survive.

Damore drove in the game-winning run on an RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning to give the Liberty, the Mountain League’s No. 3 seed, a 2-1 home win over Las Vegas High, the Desert League’s No. 4 seed.

“(Damore) started the season as my specialty pinch runner. He was my fourth (outfielder) and worked his way into it as a starter the last 20 games,” Liberty coach Rich Ebarb said. “He’s been the spark plug to the team.”

Liberty (17-15) will host No. 4M Green Valley — which lost 6-5 to No. 2M Palo Verde in a winners’ bracket game Tuesday — in another elimination game at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

The Patriots were coming off a 3-2 nine-inning loss to Coronado on Monday. Las Vegas (21-10-1) was blanked 6-0 by Faith Lutheran the same day.

“(Las Vegas had) lost too, so it was who could bounce back the best. We’re great at that,” Damore said. “This season, we didn’t start too great and we’re used to bouncing back. So today, we knew what we had to do.”

Damore’s single was one of just five hits Liberty managed off Las Vegas starter Joseph Ponticello, who struck out nine and allowed just one earned run in 6⅓ innings.

Luke Miller drew a walk to lead off the bottom of the seventh for Liberty. Pinch runner Rashaan Chavis advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt.

Damore, the Patriots’ No. 8 hitter, came up with one out and knocked a 2-2 fastball to center field as Chavis scored and the Patriots rushed out of the dugout in celebration.

“Earlier in the game I got some good swings off (Ponticello), so I knew I could hit him,” Damore said. “I got a fastball and was like, ‘Let’s get it.’ That’s the happiest I’ve been in a while. That was straight joy.”

Liberty got a solid six innings from starter Cayden Ramirez. The sophomore left-hander scattered six hits and allowed one unearned run with three strikeouts.

“That was some great pitching from Cayden,” Damore said. “We are not in this game without him. He helped us. He was huge.”

Liberty scored first in the third inning. Leadoff hitter Chris Onoszko started the inning with a single and later scored on an error when Las Vegas catcher Gage McCown’s throw to third base went past Mickey Martinez.

Las Vegas scored off an error in the fourth. Ponticello singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch. He scored when Liberty third baseman Cole Neilson’s throw went past first baseman Jaydrien Klein-Baker on a ground ball to tie the game at 1-1.

Nicholas Blakeney earned the win for Liberty after pitching a scoreless seventh inning in relief.

Justin Romero went 2-for-3 for Las Vegas, who stranded two runners on base in both the fourth and fifth innings.

Contact Alex Wright at awright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlexWright1028 on X.

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