Liberty baseball team takes fourth at state

June 4, 2015

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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Whether the Liberty High School baseball team liked it or not, the label “underdog” was slapped on the Patriots from the moment they qualified for the Class 2A state tournament.

By Karen Calcaterra Liberty High School pitcher Nate Steffens and catcher Tyler Haselman conference with head coach John Martin in the Patriots’ 6-2 loss to Centralia in the Class 2A state baseball semifinals May 29 at Yakima’s County Stadium.

By Karen Calcaterra
Liberty High School pitcher Nate Steffens and catcher Tyler Haselman conference with head coach John Martin in the Patriots’ 6-2 loss to Centralia in the Class 2A state baseball semifinals May 29 at Yakima’s County Stadium.

It stemmed from a cursory peek at their record — it was below .500 — and continued with a look at their regular-season standings, as they finished seventh out of eight teams in the 3A/2A KingCo Conference.

Those numbers, though, didn’t tell the whole story, Liberty pitcher Nate Steffens said. And opponents who doubted the Patriots as they surged to take fourth place at state would’ve known it if they took a closer look.

“You’ve got to look at who we’ve been playing all year,” Steffens said.

The other 2A teams’ strength of schedule likely couldn’t compare, Liberty outfielder Torey Anderson said.

Liberty went toe-to-toe with the likes of 3A state-qualifier Lake Washington, and eventual 3A state champion Mercer Island all season. In fact, the Patriots defeated the Islanders in one of their three matchups.

“We play in a really tough league,” Anderson said.

Steffens admitted the Patriots didn’t agree with the “underdog” label, but they did take satisfaction in silencing critics with their fourth-place finish.

“It was an amazing experience, especially after two years of the team not doing so well,” he said.

Liberty earned its way into the final four after a thrilling, come-from-behind, 4-3 win in a regional playoff game against North Kitsap on May 23 at Centralia’s Wheeler Field.

After falling behind 3-0 in the third inning, the Patriots got one run back in the sixth, and then picked up three more in the seventh to secure the walk-off win and punch their ticket to the state semifinals.

“That’s about as close as you can get to being eliminated, but we didn’t stop,” Anderson said.

Anderson went 2-for-4 in the game, while catcher Tyler Haselman went 2-for-3 with 2 RBIs to propel the Patriots to the win.

That put Liberty into the semifinals for the first time since 2003, when the Patriots won the 3A state title thanks to the arm of Tim Lincecum, now a star with the San Francisco Giants.

Liberty would go on to lose to eventual state champion Centralia, 6-2, in the semifinals at Yakima County Stadium on May 29.

The next day, they fell to Squalicum, 7-1, in a game that took 10 innings to determine a winner. Liberty had to settle for a fourth-place trophy.

The ending was bittersweet, Anderson and Steffens said, but it didn’t take away from all that the Patriots accomplished.

“A lot of people doubted us, but we won the games we had to win, we peaked at the right time and we extended our season a lot further than most people thought we would,” Anderson said.

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