For the biggest pitching performance of his young career Parker Sherrell was not an Eagle - he was a bulldog.
Sherrell struck out six Liberty hitter while allowing just two hits over five shutout innings as Hood River Valley beat Liberty 9-0 to reach the 5A state playoffs Thursday night.
"I just had the intensity and the right mindset ... the coaches call it a bulldog mentality," the junior pitcher/outfielder said.
Sherrell helped set the tone in more ways than one against Liberty.
In the second inning, with the Eagles up 1-0 he drilled a pitch from Liberty's Dakota Drake well over the left field fence for a 2-0 lead.
The Eagles spent the rest of the game capitalizing on every Liberty mistake.
In the third Nick Weekly drove in a run with a single and then moved to second on an errant pickoff throw by Drake that scored Sherrell in the process.
In the fourth Gibson became the second Eagle to go long when he took Drake deep over the leftfield fence. The Eagles added another run shortly thereafter when Lucio Alaniz hit a two-out double and was driven home by Eric McNerney.
"It was a good pump up," Gibson said of both his home run and the eventual Eagle victory.
Liberty mounted its only significant threat of the game in the bottom of the frame when two singles and a hit batter loaded the bases with one out.
However, Sherrell struck out back-to-back hitters to end the threat.
"He's a guy that doesn't get rattled a lot," HRV coach Erich Harjo said of Sherrell getting out of the fourth unscathed. "He's matured a lot in the last year."
Kyle Beam delivered the coup de grace in the fifth when he ripped a double over the Liberty rightfielder's head to plate two runs and give the Eagles their 9-0 margin.
The Eagle defense picked up its game behind Sherrell and reliever Gabi Nunos to close out the contest.
The Eagles turned a 4-6-3 double play to get the first two outs in the fifth and then turned a 6-4-3 version to end the sixth.
In the seventh, Nunos allowed a leadoff single, but retired the next three - including two by strikeouts -to give HRV its first trip to the state playoffs since 2008.
When he first took the HRV coaching job two years ago, Harjo said his goal was to get back to the state playoffs and contend for state championships.
The Eagles have now accomplished the first part of that goal.
"I feel we are a step closer toward changing the baseball culture in Hood River," he said. "It's not going to happen overnight but this is a big step for us as a program."
The 5A brackets will be released Sunday and the Eagles will play in the first round Wednesday.
Check hoodrivernews.com Monday for game information.