Christopher Bradford can play five positions, but Liberty baseball coach Mike Eshragh called on him to take the mound Monday night.
With the Patriots desperately needing a strong pitching performance, Bradford came through.
He went seven impressive innings, holding No. 8 Durango scoreless over the first six innings, to lead fifth-seeded Liberty to a 10-4 victory over the Trailblazers in a losers’ bracket game in the American Legion state tournament at UNLV’s Wilson Stadium.
The Patriots (22-10) will play Las Vegas on Wednesday at 5 p.m. The Trailblazers (40-32-1) were eliminated.
Eshragh, whose staff surrendered 21 hits in a 17-4 loss to Las Vegas on Sunday, said Bradford did just what he was asked to do.
“We told him he needed to keep (the Trailblazers) off balance,” Eshragh said. “And he did that.”
Bradford, whose offense spotted him an early 6-0 lead, said he went into the game feeling confident about his start.
“I think we were just a little nervous on Sunday,” said Bradford, who scattered six hits while holding the Trailblazers to three earned runs. “But all I thought about was throwing strikes.”
The Patriots took control in the second inning, making the most of a single, three walks and a passed ball off Durango starter Will Morris to go ahead 3-0.
They extended the advantage to 6-0 in the third with the help of singles by Bradford and Daniel Topps, and an RBI double by Michael Vargas.
Bradford (5-1) had a 7-0 lead by the time he finally began to run out of gas in the seventh. Michael Neighbors’ RBI single made it 7-1, and Durango chased the Trailblazers starter in a three-run eighth inning highlighted by Bobby Wright’s solo homer to left field.
Nathan Bennett came on in relief and took control, and Liberty tacked on three insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth to secure the win.
Eshragh said his team played with a sense of urgency.
“When you lose the first game, it’s win or go home,” he said. “These guys want to win, and the seniors definitely don’t want to go home.”
Vargas and Marcos Rivera each went 2-for-5 to help Liberty.
Jordan Hodges and Wright each had two hits to lead Durango.
■ Bishop Gorman 23, Las Vegas 7 — The Wildcats burned through four pitchers, but none could stop the Titans as they piled up 20 hits — including five home runs — on the way to a seven-inning winners’ bracket victory.
Gorman will play either Liberty or Las Vegas in the semifinals Thursday.
Joey Gallo went 5-for-5 with three home runs, a double and nine RBIs to lead Gorman (40-7-1), which took over with seven runs in the second inning and five in the third.
Quinnton Mack went 2-for-4 with two home runs to lead Las Vegas (21-15).