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Liberty wants more than just to see sights

by Danny Carpenter


(June 2) Liberty's emergence as a Class AA baseball power has only been delayed by the Mountaineers' inability to reach the state tournament.

That hurdle was cleared when Liberty won the Region I title with an 11-5 win over Magnolia last week.

Mission accomplished, right?

Not quite.

"It feels great that we finally made it to the state tournament," Liberty coach Pete Iquinto said.

"We proved we could do it, but it's only one goal. We can't be content (with making it to Charleston).

"Our number one priority now is to the win the first game," Iquinto said.

The Mountaineers (27-6) face Frankfort at 4:30 on Wednesday at Watt Powell Park.

Liberty appears the favorite as the Falcons enter with a sub-.500 record (13-15-1).

"From what we saw (in their regional final against Grafton), they have a nice team," Iquinto said.

"We are trying to get more info on them.

"They don't have overpowering pitching and hitting, but they are adequate. And their record is deceiving because they played a tough schedule."

Liberty catcher Nate Gladwell said the Mountaineers won't be looking past Wednesday's game.

"We could go in there overconfident," Gladwell said. "If we play lax, they could jump out and bite us.

"My greatest concern is overlooking Frankfort and having them jump up and get us," Gladwell said.

Iquinto believes it was an advantage for his team to see Frankfort play its regional game at South Harrison.

"A lot of the kids also saw the game," Iquinto said.

"It gives them more motivation and helps us prepare (for Wednesday)."

The pitching-deep Mountaineers may also have an advantage with the Class AA section of the tournament receiving a day off on Thursday.

"We can divide our pitchers for the games.

"It is an advantage for us," Iquinto said.

Jeff Pethtel (4-1), Todd Nutter (8-5) and Josh Matheny (7-0) had successful seasons as starters, while Ryan Dean (3-0) assumed the role of closer and recorded six saves during the season.

"Pitching and defense will the key for us," Iquinto said.

"If they come through, we will be fine."

Offensively, the Mountaineers have six starters batting over .300 led by Gladwell's .419 average. The senior also has seven homers, 11 doubles and 30 RBIs.

Gladwell is surrounded by a potent lineup of Anthony Bellotte (.284, 34 runs, 17 stolen bases), Nick Matheny (.313), Josh Matheny (.256), Pethtel (.346, 8 HRs, 30 RBIs), Mark Salfia (.394, 27 runs, 21 RBIs), Nutter (.389, 2 HRs, 15 RBIs), Wes Knight (.273, 25 runs), J.J. Hutson (.246, 13 RBIs) and John Angiulli (.157).

"The kids are real excited. The community is real excited and we're just anxious to compete," Iquinto said.

"Hopefully the ball will bounce our way ... and we'll be able to reach the goal I've been trying to reach since I was a sophomore, win the state title," Gladwell said.

"If we can play with the anger and the fury we've been playing with, no one can keep up with us," Gladwell said.