Baseball: Liberty takes down rival Hazen at Bannerwood Park

Ryan Boehm and Rohne Klein lead the way for the Patriots in win.

On a rain-riddled night, it was survival of the fittest on the diamond March 27 at Bannerwood Park between Hazen and Liberty, but it turned into a war of attrition between the rivals.

Liberty escaped with a 4-1 win and has now won nine out of their last 11 games over the Highlanders, dating back to 2016.

Coming into the contest, Liberty knew that right-handed fire baller Sam Nicholson was going to make it tough to score runs with his 1.93 ERA through 14 innings this season and 25 strikeouts through three starts.

For the most part, Nicholson lived up to the bill, allowing one earned run through six innings and tallying nine strikeouts on the way. But lefty Ryan Boehm stole the show, holding the Hazen offense to just one run in five innings.

“I came in with all the confidence in the world… They’re a good program, a lot of those guys are fun to play with. It’s always fun to play them, it’s competitive,” Boehm said.

Mac Reynolds drew a leadoff walk in the top half of the first and was put on third base on a picture-perfect hit and run from University of Utah commit Rohne Klein. Reynolds would score on a wild pitch to give Liberty the early advantage.

Klein has shown he is one of the elite hitters in the 3A classification statewide and it starts with his plate discipline. Since their matchup against Mount Si on March 12, Klein has gotten on base in seven straight games and is hitting .588 during that stretch with an on-base percentage of .826. When he has a bad at-bat, it is an eye opener for Liberty coach Kevin Frye because of how solid he has played.

“I sometimes take him for granted because if he doesn’t have a good at-bat, you’re shocked. But then you realize it is baseball and it is really hard. He’s just very composed and has a good understanding of the strike zone, which makes him so good,” Frye said.

The Liberty offense continued to annoy Nicholson early on in the game. In the second, Keaton Kauzlarich singled and an error by Nicholson presented another golden opportunity for the Patriots. Liberty scored on a ground ball to second and a passed ball to take a 3-0 lead.

That was all Boehm needed. In the Hazen half of the second, Boehm escaped some two-out trouble, leaving runners stranded on second and third, and leaving Hazen starving for runs.

“He did a better job tonight of regrouping faster and pitching to contact a little bit more. He’s a competitor… He went five innings tonight, which was a good sign,” Frye said.

Boehm was able to subdue that hunger until the fourth inning when Kyle Tat and Alvin Chang combined for the Highlanders’ lone run of the contest. Chang was the only Highlander to record more than one hit. Chang and Alex Chadrow were the only Hazen batters to reach base at least twice.

In the last two innings of his outing, Boehm really worked on throwing his breaking pitches early in the count to get ahead in the count against a Highlander team that has averaged just over eight runs a game.

“I have a lot of confidence in my breaking pitches. It is a matter of me knowing I can do it and not letting myself get ahead of it,” Boehm said.

Liberty added an extra run in the seventh, but didn’t come without controversy. With the bases loaded and no outs, a fly ball was hit to center field. Hazen third baseman Isaac Lee just stood in the way of Reynolds, who was on third base. With that screen, Liberty couldn’t score. Then the following batter, Jackson Bell, hit an almost identical fly ball to center. Lee did the same thing, but Reynolds was able to score.

This got Frye fired up and Hazen assistant coaches started going back and forth with Frye. Nothing more came of the situations, but this game clearly meant a lot to both sides.

There is a lot of familiarity between these two teams, which makes these games uber-competitive.

“You have fun playing these games. With it being a rivalry game, you see what happened between the coaches over there. They’re fun games,” Boehm said.

Liberty has now won three straight and is starting to build momentum in a tough 3A KingCo League.

“Our confidence is going up because our pitching staff is starting to pick up the pace…They’re (Hazen) tough, games are not easy (to win) in this league,” Frye said.

Rohne Klein has been on a tear at the plate recently and added a pair of knocks against the Highlanders. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Rohne Klein has been on a tear at the plate recently and added a pair of knocks against the Highlanders. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Ryan Boehm found a way to get it done on the mound against Hazen. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Ryan Boehm found a way to get it done on the mound against Hazen. Ben Ray / The Reporter