BRENTWOOD -- The same Liberty High baseball team that started the season with a 3-8 record is in position to earn an outright Bay Valley Athletic League championship.
The Lions showed how far they've come in a gritty 2-0 win over rival host Heritage on a hot Tuesday afternoon, riding the strong pitching of Cody Luther to clinch at least a share league title for the second straight year.
How confident were the Lions heading into the showdown?
"We knew we were going to win," said Luther, who won a pitchers' duel against Kevin Milam. "We're just playing great ball right now."
New heroes are emerging each afternoon for the Lions, who lead Heritage by a game in the BVAL standings with one league game remaining. Liberty (12-11, 7-2 BVAL) can clinch it outright with a win over visiting Freedom on Thursday.
Heritage (15-8, 6-3) and Deer Valley are tied for second place. On Thursday, Heritage hosts Antioch and Deer Valley plays at Pittsburg.
"Right now, no one's playing better baseball than us," first-year Liberty coach Joey Vreonis said. "We're getting it done, on the mound, defensively, and getting just enough to give us a 'W.' So we're all excited. We're fired up."
Luther, who has been a catalyst in the turnaround, tossed a five-hitter with five strikeouts, and Milam also allowed five hits over six innings to get the tough loss.
Liberty scored the only run it would need in the third as Dominic Smith singled, advanced on a throwing error and scored on Mitchell Zamora's single. CJ Sneath doubled to left and scored in the sixth on an error to make it 2-0.
The Patriots hurt their chances on the basepaths; one runner was picked off first by Liberty catcher Jason Fackrell and another was doubled off first on a fly out to right field for the third out in the sixth.
Luther had great command of his fastball, and Vreonis tipped his cap to the strapping right-hander.
"It started with the guy on the mound today," Vreonis said of the team's rise. "We had some growing pains, and he turned it around not only with his bat, but on the mound. He's been fantastic."