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Liberty advances in American Legion Western Regional

Dan Skelly pitched eight innings and drove in the go-ahead run with a bases-loaded walk in the fourth inning Thursday to help Liberty to an 11-5 win over Albuquerque (N.M.) in the first round of the American Legion Western Regional in Surprise, Ariz.

Liberty will play Helper (Utah) in the second round today at 5 p.m. Helper defeated Tucson (Ariz.) 10-9 on Thursday.

Skelly allowed 12 hits but struck out six and didn’t issue a walk. His walk in the fourth inning scored Preston Pavlica to break a 4-4 tie.

“Dan didn’t have his best stuff, and his pitch count got up, but he really did gut through the seventh and eighth innings for us,” Liberty coach Mike Eshragh said. “We need all the arms we can get, and to get those innings out of him was big.”

Liberty added a run on Giovanni Battistoni’s RBI single in the fifth and another on Jay Martz’s sacrifice fly in the sixth.

Albuquerque pulled within 7-5 in the eighth, but Liberty responded with four runs — all with two outs — in the bottom of the inning. Martz had an RBI single, and Ethan Ibarra drew a bases-loaded walk before Nicholas Rush hit a two-run single.

The Patriots took advantage of 12 walks and got solid contributions from the bottom of their order, with the Nos. 6 through 9 hitters combining to go 5-for-13 with seven walks, five runs and seven RBIs.

“They were patient, and they executed well,” Eshragh said. “Their pitchers struggled at the beginning of the game, and we gave a lot of take signs.”

Battistoni and Jesse Keiser each had two of Liberty’s 10 hits.

“We didn’t play very well today. We made some base-running mistakes that we don’t usually make,” Eshragh said. “Every team out here is good. It feels great being in the winners’ bracket.

“At the end of the day, we’re right where we want to be.”

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