Liberty's baseball team winning with pitching depth

Andy Pitsilos paused when asked to identify his top starter.

One of Liberty's pitchers, senior Pete Daland, had just limited Whitehall to two runs and struck out 10 over six innings. Another senior, Jimmy McCarthy, had already fired three strong starts, allowing no more than two runs in any of them.

"It's more like a 1 and a 1A," Pitsilos, the Hurricanes' 10th-year coach, said with a chuckle. "Either one."

Through the first few weeks this season, Pitsilos has departed baseball fields smiling more often than not. A deep pitching staff has left him in the enviable position of having more arms available than innings for them to pitch.

The Hurricanes (6-1 overall, 3-0 Lehigh Valley Conference through Wednesday) entered Thursday's game against Parkland having allowed two or fewer runs six times in their first seven games. They won five of those six games, with the lone loss a 2-0 setback against Central Catholic. Daland (3-0, 1.31 ERA) and McCarthy (2-1, 1.55) started all of the games in which Liberty has allowed two or fewer runs.

Another senior, Robert Bertolotti, has served as the Hurricanes' primary reliever. He finished Tuesday's 8-2 win over Whitehall with a scoreless seventh and hasn't allowed a run in his three innings. Ed Alberston also has given the Hurricanes solid relief work, throwing three scoreless innings and striking out five.

Pitsilos said he had as many as eight pitchers he was willing to throw in games, but the dry weather has allowed him to stick with his top arms so far. He did work two juniors, Josh Nales and Zach Kantor, into their first game Saturday against Hazleton. They split the pitching duties, helping the Hurricanes collect a 10-6 win.

"They did a good job, too," Pitsilos said.

The Hurricanes may need to use all their pitchers if rain backs up their schedule the way it did last season. No matter whom they place on the mound, they hope this season will see them go on an extended run once the postseason arrives.

Liberty has qualified for the LVC playoffs the past three seasons, but each time it has lost in the semifinals. All of those league playoff setbacks were followed by losses in the District 11 4A quarterfinals. The Hurricanes have not won a district playoff game since 2008, when they reached the 4A title game before losing to Whitehall.

"We've always struggled in the playoffs," Daland said. "Hopefully [it changes this season]. That's what we're banking on. We'll see how everything goes.

"We're doing pretty good [as a pitching staff]," he added. "We've just got to take it one game at a time now."

Blue Bomber streak

When Palmerton knocked off defending Colonial League champion Pen Argyl last week, it collected the most surprising win any team has had this season.

The Blue Bombers have used the confidence boost they received from downing the Green Knights to put together a rare winning streak.

With Wednesday's 10-9 comeback win over Northern Lehigh, Palmerton has won three straight games since starting the season 0-5. The Blue Bombers had won just nine games total over the past three seasons and never won more than two games in a row.

Leadoff hitter Aaron Cook (.444) and No. 2 hitter Tanner Gutekunst (.571) have hit all season. Four players below them in the batting order — Brett Snyder (.391), Mike Sander (.391), C.J. Cressman (.381) and Ryan Saylor (.367) — have heated up during Palmerton's recent run.

"The last three games, we've gotten a number of two-out hits and two-strike hits," Palmerton coach Tom Smelas said. "That's really the main catalyst."

Smelas also has been pleased to see his team win in different ways. The Blue Bombers used a six-run inning third inning to grab a five-run lead against Pen Argyl and held on for the win. They then rebounded from a two-run deficit to beat Catasauqua before earning a walk-off win Wednesday with a three-run seventh inning against Northern Lehigh.

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