Sheldon Liikala was looking for redemption, Brent Schafer was looking to make his varsity bones.
Both came away happy — happier in Liikala’s case — after driving in winning runs for their teams Friday evening as Richland and Southridge split a pair of Mid-Columbia Conference baseball games at Bomber Field.
Schafer, a junior first baseman who had just nine at-bats coming into the week, blasted a towering fly ball into the night air for a three-run home run as the Suns scored six runs in the fifth inning and held on for a 9-6 win.
Hold on is what the Bombers did in the opener, losing a six-run lead after five innings, only to have Liikala stroke a one-out single to left for the tying and winning runs in a 12-11 thriller.
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Schafer also doubled in a pair of runs in the first inning and helped make coach Tim Sanders’ lineup juggling a big hit.
“I’ve been struggling, and I just tried to relax at the plate,” Schafer after his five-RBI game. “See ball, hit ball.”
Sounds simple, and looked simple too when he dug into a first-pitch fastball from Richland starter Levi Broeske.
Schafer was one of several unlikely heroes on the day for Southridge (12-4, 8-2 MCC).
In the first game, utility infielder Colby Wakefield, subbing in for leading hitter Jared Newbry in the sixth inning, smacked a ball into the gap in left-center with two outs to unload the bases and pull the Suns to within two runs.
In the seventh, pinch hitter Jordan Dawson (no at-bats coming into the week) drilled a ball to center field that brought home two runs and gave Southridge a brief lead.
“We use our bench,” Sanders said. “We have a lot of game-ready guys.”
Dawson’s hit is where Liikala’s drama started. The ball was a clean single for sure, but the Richland outfielder lost his footing and let it get by him for a triple.
“He had this hang-dog look,” Bombers coach Grant Richardson said. “I told him ‘You are going to get your shot.’ ”
That he did. Nate Ruane led off the bottom of the seventh with a walk — the fifth time he reached base in the game without getting a hit. A sacrifice bunt was popped up before Mason Hilty walked and Gibson McGeorge blooped a single into left.
With the bases loaded, Liikala stepped in and hit a ball just out of the diving reach of left fielder Andrew Nett. As the ball bounded away, Hilty came jogging around third behind Ruane with the tying and winning runs.
“They guys did a heck of a job to come back and get that one,” Richardson said.
Hilty finished 2-for-3 with a double and three RBIs in the opener, also throwing 41⁄3 strong innings around a three-run hiccup in the second frame. Garrett March was 2-for-3 with a couple of steals for the Bombers (12-6, 7-5).
Addison Spivey came up big for Southridge in the first game, going 3-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and two runs. He also threw 31⁄3 innings of calming relief after Richland scored eight runs in the first three innings.
Spivey added two more singles in the finale, and Grant Lathim was 3-for-4 with a triple to help Schafer drive the offense. Conner O’Neil and Justin Kreutz slammed the door shut on Richland from the fifth inning on. Hilty and McGeorge had two more hits for the Bombers.
The split keeps Southridge within reach of Kennewick (10-0 MCC) heading into the doubleheader next Friday. Meanwhile, Richland finished a strange two weeks (three splits and being swept) with the top seed to the Class 4A district tournament locked up after Chiawana split with Kamiakin and Walla Walla was swept by Kennewick.“We look good one game, and the other game is another story,” Ruane said. “We’ll put the pieces together.”
Southridge 030 014 3 — 11 12 3
Richland 233 200 2 — 12 9 3
Trenton Nett, Addison Spivey (3), Conner Morfin (7) and Austin Morfin; Mason Hilty, Gibson McGeorge (6), Carson Miller (6), Levi Broeske (7) and Tyler Kjarmo. Highlights—Jared Newbry (SR) 2B; Colby Wakefield (SR) 3-R 2B; Jordan Dawson (SR) 2-R 3B; Spivey (SR) 3x4, 2B, 2R, 2 RBI; Nate Ruane (R) 0-1, 4R, 2 BB, 2 HBP; Hilty (R) 2x3, 2B, 3 RBI, 2R; McGeorge (R) 2x4, RBI; Sheldon Liikala (R) 2x5, 2 RBI; Garrett March (R) 2x3, RBI, R, 2 SB.
Southridge 300 060 0 — 9 11 2
Richland 002 310 0 — 6 8 2
Jake Ebberts, Conner O’Neil (5), Justin Kreutz (6) and Phillip Schartz; Broeske, AJ Shaw (5) and Kjarmo. Highlights—O’Neil (SR) 2x4, 2B, RBI, R; Grant Lathim (SR) 3x4, 3B, RBI, 2R; Brent Schafer (SR) 2x3, 2B, HR, 5 RBI; Hilty (R) 2x3, 2B, RBI; McGeorge (R) 2x4, RBI; March (R) 2B, RBI, 2R.