Brooke Fowlkes can always count on teammate and fellow senior Lexi Trail to provide words of encouragement from behind the plate when she's at bat.

Fowlkes' younger sister Taylor, also on Liberty's softball team, will chime in to tell Brooke to be patient and wait for the pitch. Brooke said she always tries and on Tuesday, she succeeded.

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The Lions (10-7, 7-5 county) triumphed over Manchester Valley 9-2 at Liberty, splitting the two-game regular season series with the Mavericks. The last time the teams met, Man Valley won 9-8 in nine innings.

"We knew they were coming out really strong and they've always been our toughest opponent at least through the four years I've been here," Trail said. "It's always been head-to-head so we knew they were coming out strong and basically told ourselves before the game to treat this game like it means something, come out strong and we did that in the first inning so we're proud of that."

Fowlkes, who totaled three hits and five RBIs on the day, got things going in the first inning with a two-run triple that brought Jennifer Sothoron and Ashlyn Weisgerber in to score — the Lions carried a 4-0 lead into the fourth inning.

Man Valley sophomore infielder Stephanie Barksdale hit a triple, the Mavs' third hit up to that point, to boost the momentum at the top of the fourth. Barksdale scored when senior pitcher Rachel Heron singled to trim the deficit 4-1.

The Lions led 6-1 and had one out when Trail went to bat. She singled and Sothoron stepped in as her courtesy runner. Weisgerber reached first on a hit by pitch and the Lions had two bases loaded when Fowlkes came up. She knocked a home run through center field to bring the two base runners, including herself, in to score.

Trail said Fowlkes has done well this year in contributing to the Lions' success. The little hits are key, but her big ones come when the team least expects it.

"Last year, my hitting was a little OK but [former teammate] Lexi Jones taught me a good lesson that if you don't go to the plate confident then you're already down on yourself."

At the top of the seventh, Man Valley freshman Kassidy Johnson tripled and catcher April Povlock's courtesy runner Lauren McGuire notched an RBI on a sacrifice fly when Johnson scored to bring the Mavs (11-5, 7-4) within seven of Liberty.

"We started off a little slow, a little flat, and as the game picked up we started touching the ball a little bit more, hitting it at them so the ball wasn't dropping for us," Mavs coach Mike Hernandez said. "Again, Lexi's a phenomenal pitcher so when we go against her, every hit counts. We were putting the ball in play but we just couldn't put a few hits together."

Trail notched nine strikeouts in Tuesday's game and Liberty coach Chris Szocik praised the team's composure when Trail is on the mound. The Lions celebrated the contributions of their three seniors, Fowlkes, Trail and Weisgerber, after the victory.

"We've been on the verge of going all the way potentially the last three years with these girls and we still have that potential," Szocik said. "It would be great if we could make it happen this year and that's certainly what we are trying to push for with the team and we responded tonight.

"It's such a psychological game that one little thing here and there seems to affect chemistry for whatever reason, but hopefully we can move forward positively and I think we can."

Man Valley 000 100 1 — 2 9 1

Liberty 301 500 0 — 9 12 1

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MV-Megan Cappadora, Rachel Heron (4) and April Povlock, Jordan Diggs (4); L-Lexi Trail and Jordan Nastos. 3B: MV-Stephanie Barksdale, Kassidy Johnson. WP: Trail. LP: Cappadora.

410-857-7893

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