Nutter hurls Liberty into regionals
by Chris Erringotn
(May 22) SHINNSTON --Heading into Thursday's game, Liberty had two chances to win the Class AA Region I, Section 3 championship. Todd Nutter made sure the Mountaineers would only need one.
Backed by three first-inning runs, the senior righthander was nearly flawless. Nutter improved to 6-5 by tossing a two-hitter while striking out 11 and walking just one in Liberty's 4-0 victory.
Nutter was so dominating that Lincoln (17-13) didn't have a runner reach second base.
"Todd's a senior and a four-year player for us, so this is what we expect of him," Liberty coach Pete Iquinto said. "I have no problem putting him on the mound for big games like today.
"It was important to get the win here today, because we didn't want to come back and give them any momentum," Iquinto said.
The Mountaineers (25-6) now play in Monday's first-round Region I contest at Ripley. Liberty's opponent has yet to be determined.
An error and a Mark Salfia RBI single helped give Nutter all the run support he would need as the Mountaineers jumped out to a 3-0 lead before Lincoln came to bat.
The error and two consecutive walks loaded the bases with one out, before Salfia lined a single to center that scored Josh Matheny with the game's first run. The Cougars had a chance to get out of the inning with minimal damage, but walks to Nutter and J.J. Hutson forced in two more runs and put the Cougars in a hole they would never climb out of.
"It's always nice to get some early offensive run support," Nutter said. "I felt good out there today, but luck has a lot to do with it. I pitch for the big games."
Nutter didn't give Lincoln a break. He allowed just eight balls to be hit out of the infield, and retired 13 straight batters over the second through sixth innings, including six in a row on strikeouts.
"He was unhittable. He was awesome," Lincoln coach Frank Lopez said of Nutter's performance. "That was the effort Liberty needed today and they got it. It was just too much Nutter for us."
Williams settled down after the first inning, holding the Mountaineers hitless and shutting them out over the next three innings before giving way to Pat Moore in the fifth.
The only other scoring in the game came from Liberty catcher Nate Gladwell. Hitless in four previous sectional at-bats, the Mountaineers' clean-up hitter blasted Moore's 3-1 offering deep over the left field fence for a fifth-inning solo home run.
From there it was all Nutter.
Nutter held a Cougar team that had recorded 19 hits and 21 runs in Wednesday's elimination game with Ritchie County to one baserunner from the second on.
"To come in here and do what we did against a team that has as many bats as Lincoln does says a lot for our pitching staff," Iquinto said.