Liberty powers through tough schedule, injuries to make state | Softball
By ADAM MCFADDEN
Renton Reporter Staff Writer
May 23, 2012 · Updated 2:50 PM
All along, Liberty softball coach Brian Hartman knew his team was being underrated. Once the Patriots made it to the postseason, they got to prove it.
“Our record doesn’t necessarily reflect the quality of our team,” Hartman said. “We were super close the entire year, and we just had to break through.”
The Patriots stand at 11-14 overall and finished in fifth in the KingCo 3A/2A. But there’s something to be said for strength of schedule, and Liberty had that in spades. Every team that finished ahead of Liberty in the league standings made state (Juanita, Mount Si and Lake Washington in 3A, plus Interlake in 2A).
Hartman signed on for an even tougher, non-league schedule that featured three 4A state-qualifying teams in Bothell, Tahoma and Inglemoor, plus a third, Ballard, that went 14-7. Liberty also took on Selah, who made the 2A state tournament.
Or, to say it simply, the Patriots have seen it all. They’ve fought through injuries as team leaders Denise Blohowiak, Taylor Weik and Joshilynn Wolff have all missed time. Wolff was on pace to break the school’s RBI record and is out for the playoffs.
“Nothing was given to these kids,” Hartman said. “They learned to persevere, to fight, to play the style I’ve been preaching the whole time.”
Hartman has said since before the season that he wants Liberty to be the most aggressive team in the state, and that style was on full display in the district tournament. Liberty took out Chief Sealth 17-5 in the first round, then beat Holy Names 10-7 in a state-clinching victory.
“I’m not quite sure Holy Names knew what hit them,” he said. “We were going for everything possible. It took a while, but they did really buy in.”
The style comes with a small cost, two Patriots were thrown out at home against Holy Names, and two more at second. But for Hartman, having a runner or two thrown out is the price of playing his way. And with the results, it’s hard to argue.
Hartman has especially enjoyed getting this group to state after stepping away from the program following the 2008 season. At that point, Liberty had made state for 12 straight years and 14 of 15 years, going back to 1994.
The Patriots missed the tournament each of the past three seasons without Hartman at the helm. So in his first year back, this success has extra meaning for him, and for a group of players that hadn’t been to state yet.
“I’m really proud of this group of kids,” he said. “They own this one. The new group wanted it so bad, they had heard all about the tradition at Liberty. Now they get to feel it on their own.”
Liberty starts the state tournament Friday against Everett at 9 a.m. With a win, the Patriots play again at 4 p.m. With a loss, they play in a loser-out game at 2 p.m. All games are at the Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey.
“I think we surprised a lot of people,” Hartman said. “But we didn’t hide from this. Every practice the last two weeks has ended with us saying that we’re going to state.”
Hartman was voted the KingCo 3A/2A Coach of the Year. Liza Van Kamp made the first team all-league. Wolff and Blohowiak both made the second team all-league. Miranda Bukantz earned honorable mention.
“We think Liberty softball is back where it belongs,” Hartman said.Contact Renton Reporter Staff Writer Adam McFadden at email@example.com or 425-255-3484.