High school baseball: Firebaugh, Liberty-Madera Ranchos, Woodlake secure titles
Firebaugh High has seen some heartbreak in the Central Section championships before.
Most recently, the Eagles lost back-to-back finals in 2016 and 2017 to Immanuel and Wasco.
Firebaugh led Wasco 4-1 in the seventh inning before losing 5-4 in Division IV.
The heartbreak came to an end Friday when the Eagles, behind pitcher Manuel Bautista, defeated East Bakersfield 4-1 in the Division V championship at Valley Strong Ballpark in Visalia.
The win gives Firebaugh its third section title in school history, according to section historian Bob Barnett.
“We believed we were going to be here,” Firebaugh coach Alex Gutierrez said. “We were resilient. This group was tough.”
Firebaugh made it to the title game after defeating McLane, Rosamond and Monache.
Gutierrez cited strong pitching as the reason why his Eagles were dominant in the playoffs. “We knew we had two solid arms and it was obvious in the playoffs. Both of these guys (Bautista and Isaiah Leyva) ... they went the whole distance in all four games. It was just a group that stayed with the process. We’re not great offensively. You watch us play, we’re just not the greatest offensive team that I’ve had, but I knew that defensively, we’re going to lock it down and we did that.”
Bakersfield Christian defeated Cabrillo 8-3.
The win gives the Eagles their third section title.
Down 3-0 in the first inning, Liberty-Madera Ranchos coach Derick Kuhn said his team never panics.
McGuire Smith had a triple, home run and three RBI to rally Liberty-Madera Ranchos to a 9-5 victory over Immanuel in the Division IV title game on Saturday.
Hawks coach Derick Kuhn believes Smith’s home run went 440 feet over the scoreboard.
“Overall team effort,” he said. “It was a matter of lets get our feet back under us, first-inning jitters and they responded right away.”
The victory gives the Hawks their first section title win since 2019.
Starting pitcher Dylan Whiteman picked up the win and helped himself when he hit a three-run triple.
The Hawks added three runs in the second and third innings to pull away.
“It’s been a special year,” Kuhn said. “The season, how we started, we wanted to get back to Rawhide and finish the job.”
Woodlake won its first section title since the 1982 season after a 7-0 victory over Orange Cove.
The Tigers broke the game open for good in the sixth inning when Landon Gomez hit a three-run double.