Liberty wins school’s first-ever CIF title, in just their second year

IRVINE – When a new school opens, there isn’t much of an expectation to come out swinging when building your athletic programs. Liberty High School must not know that. In just their second year as an accredited high school, with the junior class leading the way to be the first graduating seniors in 2024, Liberty has been putting their name on the sports map throughout the entire school year. Whether it was football, basketball, tennis, or wrestling, just to name a few, success seemed to come naturally for the Bison.

On Friday, May 19, the Liberty softball team took their success to a whole new level after pulling out all the stops through their first trip to the playoffs. As the last team standing, the Bison claimed the CIF-SS Division 5 championship with a 5-2 victory over top-seeded Irvine (21-11) at Barber Park.

Unlike a handful of their recent games, Liberty (22-3-1) jumped out to an early lead, never looking back en route to the first Southern Section championship for the school, which opened in 2021. A first inning walk was followed by an error in the field, which put two runners on for Haley Kitzerow who went big fly with a three-run shot to center field. Kitzerow had a special day as she drove in all of Liberty’s runs when she added a two-run double in the third.

Liberty’s Haley Kitzerow (1) blasted a three-run home run against Irvine in the CIF-SS Division 5 softball championship at Barber Park Friday, May 19, 2023. Valley News/Morgan Ivy photo

Bison coach Jeffrey Pena told the media after the game that he felt his team had a good shot in the postseason. “It’s more than just talent that brought this team here. These girls are unselfish, they love the game, and they love to play together. They are a hard team to beat.”

Aside from a run-scoring single to Shelby Crowe, and an RBI double from Harper Vandermolen, Janessa Giugliano did her part to get the win for Liberty. The righty went seven innings in the pitchers circle, allowing two runs on five hits and striking out seven. Hyli De Los Santos took the loss for the Vaqueros after allowing nine hits and five runs over six innings, striking out one and walking one.

The Bison tallied nine hits in the game with Kaylee Fraund, Yasmine Lopez, and Kitzerow each coming through with multiple hits. Fraund was the leading hitter with three hits in three at bats and would score twice on the day thanks to Kitzerow.

The Liberty softball team with their CIF-SS Division 5 softball championship plaque in Irvine on Friday, May 19, 2023. Valley News/Morgan Ivy photo

Both teams will find out what comes next in their season as the 2023 CIF State Regional Championship Brackets will be made available the afternoon of Sunday, May 28. Special thanks to Liberty High School’s student photographer, Morgan Ivy, for providing photos (on Instagram at www.instagram.com/morgan.ivy.photography).

JP Raineri can be reached by email at sports@reedermedia.com.

JP Raineri

JP is an award-winning multimedia journalist, and head of the Sports Department for the Valley News. Over his time in the Temecula Valley, JP, a former Southwestern League head baseball coach, was also an on-air radio personality at Q103.3, KATY 101.3, Hot 103.9, and was a television host for the Outdoor Channel. When not covering local, or national sports, JP also serves as an Associate Baseball Scout with NSR.