First-round loss leaves room to grow for Liberty High School’s youths

May 31, 2012

By Matt Carstens

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Two unearned runs in an error-riddled bottom of the first inning proved to be an insurmountable lead as the Liberty High School Patriots’ fastpitch team lost to Everett in the first round of the 3A state tournament May 25.

Everett starting pitcher Lexi Levin took control after that, surrendering only one run in the top of the fourth on a steal of home.

Although the quick exit from the state tournament was not what Liberty had in mind, head coach Brian Hartman said he knows that the return of Liberty to the state tournament is a return to normalcy.

“It’s a big deal,” Hartman said. “The program’s kind of back where it belongs. I think we’re about ready to start another streak here. We had a 12-year run here. It’s fun seeing everyone here. It means you’re back playing with the elite. You’re one of the top programs in the state and that’s where we expect to be.”

Hartman said he thinks the several-year layoff and relative post-season inexperience was evident in his young team.

“I saw a team that hadn’t been to the state tournament in a few years,” he said. “They looked a little bit nervous to start the game, we made a few errors, definitely wasn’t our best game of the year. But we had a chance to beat a team that was 21-1. Like I told a few other people, I’m the happiest coach in the world to be here. There are a few other teams sitting at home right now that aren’t here. I’m proud of them. I’m disappointed that we lost, but Everett’s a great team.”

Hartman said he knew his team had some opportunities, but just weren’t able to string enough hits together off Levin.

“She had multiple pitches,” he said. “She had a rise ball, a drop ball, she was moving it in and off the plate. It was tough to establish what was going to be a strike and what wasn’t going to be a strike. And we had a number of opportunities with people on base. We just couldn’t get them in.”

One Patriot who didn’t have a hard time with Levin was junior catcher Miranda Bukantz, who went 3-3 with two doubles, one of which led to her courtesy runner coming around to score the lone Liberty run.

“When I get up there, I have to know I’m better than the pitcher,” Bukantz said. “I’m going up to get a hit. In state, I just want to leave it all on the field. But it’s all mental. I just have to get up and be ready to hit, and know that I’m going to get a hit every single time that I do.”

Bukantz also threw out one of the fastest base stealers in the state, Keilanna Harper, who has signed to play with the University of Washington next season.

The other defensive highlight from the game was a diving catch from center fielder Ana Faoro who robbed Everett’s Demaree Trull of a base hit.

“A lot of people will practice diving, but it’s not really something you can practice,” Faoro said. “It’s just something you kind of have to do in the moment. It’s just something that happened.”

Trull hit a sinking line drive that Faoro had to break for right away.

“It was a little tough to judge,” she said. “If I judged it a little better I might have been able to get it in the air. But if you have to dive you got to do it to get it.”

Faoro also had a single to left field, which turned into a bit of a circus play when she found herself at third.

“I always like hitting it down the left field line, and then the overthrow was just a happy turn of events,” she said. “I didn’t realize how bad of an overthrow it was, so I had to hustle down to third.”

Reflecting on the changes implemented by Hartman, third baseman Liza VanCamp was happy about how the team bonded together this year.

“He’s awesome. He keeps the intensity up every practice, every game,” she said. “Really strives for winning, and just doing our best. Last year, our team wasn’t that close but this year, we’re like really, really close with each other.”

Bukantz couldn’t agree more.

“We’ve had so much fun,” she said. “He’s so much more aggressive, and he brings everything to the table, on the field. Off the field, he’s an intense coach. He has these personal conferences, like self check-ups to see what you can work on. It’s great.”

Starting pitcher Sydney Hopper, a freshman who only gave up three earned runs in the contest, said she was glad she could get her team to state.

“I really wanted to do it for my teammates,” Hopper said. “Especially the seniors, since it’s their last year and they’ve never been before. It was a big motivation to get here all year. It’s really great.”

Hopper thinks the future of Liberty softball is right where it should be.

“We’re losing some really great seniors,” she said. “But we have some really great returners. Our catcher’s really great. She’s going to be a great leader next year, so I think we’re going to have a good chance.”

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