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Democrat File Photo by Ted Waddell

LIBERTY’S KEVIN MCGUIRE hits the ball during a game last month versus Sullivan West.

Indians Suffer
Tough Season

By Ted Waddell
Editor’s Note: This is the latest in our series of wrap-up stories about the county’s high school baseball teams and how they fared during the 2005 season. Please see more such stories in upcoming issues.
LIBERTY — June 14, 2005 – The Liberty Indians ended the 2005 season with an overall record of 7-18 and 3-6 in OCIAA Division IV competition.
“At the beginning of the season, it seemed like we had a lot of potential,” said Coach Jim O’Connor, now in his ninth year at the helm.
O’Connor based that early season evaluation on how his team fared against Cornwall, whom he called “a pretty great baseball establishment.” Although Liberty lost all three games of the series – by scores of 6-4, 12-9 and 7-0 – O’Connor was encouraged by how the Indians played against a powerhouse.
(Incidentally, Cornwall won the Section IX Class A title and advanced to the state Class A championship game.)
How about the rest of the season?
“We showed a lot of promise, and at times we played well, yet at other times we couldn’t put the pieces together to win games,” O’Connor commented.
The veteran coach noted that the Indians’ best game this spring was their 10-9 comeback victory at home over James I. O’Neill. Liberty scored all of its runs in the final three innings to record the one-run victory.
“After that game, I didn’t think we were going to lose again,” said O’Connor. “They turned around a game we could have lost 20 to nothing.”
The worst of 2005?
“A couple of divisional games against Sullivan West, O’Neill and Burke where we could have been contenders… we just didn’t get it done in the field to get the extra wins,” O’Connor said.
He credited the clutch hitting of several batters, including Mike Kushetsky, Connor Noetzel, Shane Noetzel, Jason Garritt and Casey Pazzalia, with helping the team this season.
Garritt led the team with a .440 batting average and O’Connor noted that he was “pound for pound, one of the best athletes I’ve ever coached.”
“Peter Panagakos wasn’t an everyday starter, but ended up earning a starting role on the team,” O’Connor added.
Panagakos finished the season with the Indians’ second highest batting average.
O’Connor praised the pitching performances of Corey Van Keuren, who hurled a one-hitter against Goshen, a three-hitter against O’Neill and a six-hitter against John S. Burke Catholic High School – only to get tagged with the loss in each of those contests.
“He kept us in a lot of games, but we didn’t manufacture anything around him to win,” O’Connor stated.
A coach isn’t a coach without a good statistician and this spring Liberty senior basketball player Jared Levine kept numerical tabs on the Indians.
“He really helped me out… he’s a heck of a nice kid,” O’Connor said.
Looking ahead to 2006, O’Connor said, “The high school baseball season is over in the bat of an eye… we have a lot of talented juniors coming back next year.”

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