Liberty falls to Juanita, 6-5

April 8, 2014

By Christina Corrales-Toy

Sloppy defense plagues Patriots

By Greg Farrar Sydney Hopper, Liberty High School pitcher, battles during the sixth inning against Juanita on April 2, claiming six strikeouts during the game in a 6-5 loss.

By Greg Farrar
Sydney Hopper, Liberty High School pitcher, battles during the sixth inning against Juanita on April 2, claiming six strikeouts during the game in a 6-5 loss.

As second-year Liberty High School fastpitch coach Zach Bartholomew analyzed the Patriots’ 6-5 loss to Juanita on April 2, he pointed to one inning.

In a game of numbers, one sloppy inning is all it takes to seal the fate of a team, and it was the top of Liberty’s third inning that proved costly.

“We had one inning cost us three runs on two errors, and then we made some base-running mistakes that cost us another two runs,” Bartholomew said. “If we can just cut that down, games like that, we walk away ahead four to five runs.”

Take away the defensively clumsy third inning, and the Patriots would’ve earned the victory against one of the league’s tougher teams.

Juanita jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, as Liberty pitcher Sydney Hopper shook off the rust, after battling an illness the week prior.

Hopper rebounded nicely, notching six strikeouts over seven innings, and consistently getting the team out of bases-loaded jams. Only two of Juanita’s six runs were earned.

Liberty tacked on two runs in the second that began with a double by Hopper. Both she and third baseman Olivia Kutzke scored in the inning. It tied the game, 2-2, before Juanita’s three-run third inning, marked by a sloppy Liberty defense.

“We’ve been practicing and preaching the same thing. You’ve got a pitcher out there battling, you’ve got to make the groundball, flyball outs,” Bartholomew said of the defensive miscues, most of which occurred in the infield.

The Patriots’ offense got two of the runs back in the fourth inning, but it could’ve been more, Bartholomew said, as the runners missed some chances to advance on the Juanita catcher’s passed balls.

“We just lost some aggressiveness on the bases,” he said.

Juanita got the insurance run it needed in the top of the seventh, before squashing a Liberty rally in the bottom of the inning. The Patriots scored one run, and had the tying run on third at the end of the game, but ultimately fell short.

That display of perseverance showed some of the old-school toughness that Liberty sports teams often possess, Bartholomew said. He would know, too, since he was a member of the 2003 Liberty baseball team that won a 3A state title.

“Us old-school Liberty people that have been around Liberty for a long time know that Liberty’s tough,” he said. “We preached that last year, and they’re starting to figure that out. They’re battling to the end.”

Kutzke led the team in hitting, going 2-4 with a double, an RBI and a run. Maddy O’Connor came up with the big RBI double that brought the score within one in the bottom of the seventh.

“It was a pretty solid effort, just two or three plays where we made mistakes,” Bartholomew said.


Field conditions

It’s impossible not to notice the new soundtrack that greets visitors at Liberty’s softball field.

While the Issaquah softball team has the sounds of gunfire, thanks to the nearby shooting range, Liberty athletes and fans are now treated to the sounds of construction from an adjacent housing development.

Those familiar with Liberty’s field will remember that a forest of trees stood on the other side of the fence along the third base line. Those are gone, replaced by under-construction houses and streets.

A new cement wall now juts out into the foul-ball territory in left field as part of the development’s construction. It makes Bartholomew feel uneasy, he said, worrying about his girls’ safety.

The Liberty softball field, in general, is in a state of disrepair. The wooden dugouts are marked with holes big enough to put a hand through, while the plastic banner bearing the team’s state, district and league accomplishments is so faint and worn, it’s almost as if those things never happened.

A nonworking scoreboard sits in the same outfield where a makeshift outfield fence is all that separates the softball team from the javelin throwers in right field.

“We’re juggling practice with watching out for javelin. It’s just a nightmare,” Bartholomew said.

What irks coaches even more is that just a stone’s throw away sits the Liberty baseball field, complete with its artificial turf and functioning scoreboard. The Liberty softball team is supposed to get turf, too, though when is anyone’s guess, as the project keeps getting delayed, Bartholomew said.

“The biggest problem for me is safety stuff,” he said. “We’ve got a kid out right now with a concussion because of this temp fence that we have. She hit the fence and landed on her face.”

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