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Opportunistic Coronado slips past Liberty

It’s usually not ideal when your leadoff batter swings at a ball in the dirt for strike three.

But for Coronado’s baseball team Tuesday, it was the start of a game-winning uprising.

The Cougars rallied for two runs in the fifth inning on the way to a 3-1 road win over Liberty.

Coronado’s Kaleb Blyton swung at a pitch in the dirt to start the inning. The ball squirted away from catcher Joe Maurer, who scrambled and tried to gun out Blyton at first. But his throw was wild, and Blyton ended up at second base.

“That fifth inning we kind of stubbed our toe, and that eventually was the winning two runs,” Liberty coach Nick Didier said.

Liberty pitcher Chris Bradford retired the next two batters, but Mike Maiello lined a sharp single to right field, and pinch runner Carmen DiGennaro just beat Jesse Keiser’s throw to the plate to put the Cougars up 2-1.

Maiello took second on the throw to the plate and scored when Chandler Blanchard lined a double down the left-field line.

Maiello got things going for Coronado (21-2, 7-0 Southeast League) in the first inning when he followed Tyler Brown’s leadoff double with a bloop single to right to score the first run.

“Maiello had a good day at the plate,” Coronado coach David Padilla said. “He got us started in the first, and then he came up big again to get us the go-ahead run.”

Liberty (20-4, 5-2) threatened in the seventh when Dylan Myers hit two batters. He was replaced with one out by Blanchard, who got James Martz to fly out to center for the second out.

After a wild pitch moved runners to second and third, Blanchard got Liberty No. 3 hitter Josh McCollum to foul out to right fielder Miles Bice to end the game.

Myers struggled at times with his control but pitched out of it. He allowed just two hits but walked six and hit two.

“D.J. gave us everything he had,” Padilla said. “Every time that kid goes out for us, he gives us everything he has. He was in bed all last week with food poisoning. At times he looked sharp, and at times he struggled, but he did enough to keep us in the ballgame, and that’s all we ask him to do.”

McCollum drove in Liberty’s run with a single up the middle in the third. Bradford allowed six hits and struck out 10.

It was the second narrow loss to Coronado for the Patriots, who trail the Cougars by two games in the Southeast League.

“We just came up one hit short,” Didier said. “If we play them again, hopefully we’ll get that big hit and that will propel us to a win.”

Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at dseiters@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4587. Follow @DamonSeiters on Twitter.

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