BETHLEHEM – The Pleasant Valley baseball team had Liberty right where it wanted it after two innings of play on Tuesday.
Then again, maybe it was the Hurricanes that had the Bears directly in their crosshairs.
Trailing by two heading into the bottom of the third, Liberty's bats exploded for eight runs on five hits and delivered a knockout blow to Pleasant Valley's upset chances. The third-seeded 'Canes recorded at least one run and two hits in each inning of play en route to a 16-6 victory over the 11th-seeded Bears in the District 11 AAAA quarterfinals.
"(Danny) Hrbek did what he could," said Pleasant Valley manager Charlie Inserra. "I thought he looked sharper last week against Pocono Mountain East, but the bottom line is that Liberty is a very good hitting team. They make you pay when you aren't hitting spots and your location is not on. And of course they are going to make you pay for any free outs that you give them in the field.
"For a while there we were kind of matching them, but they just kept going and we kind of ran out of gas."
Pleasant Valley's Adrian Concepcion led the game off with an infield single and was driven in two batters later on Hrbek's triple to deep right. However, the Bears would leave Hrbek stranded on third.
Liberty (20-3) answered with two runs of its own. Jimmy McCarthy singled, stole second and then scored on a throwing error. Teammate Pat Donnelly then tripled before being knocked in on a sacrifice fly.
The Bears didn't flinch and responded to the district's best team record-wise. Troy Van Houten singled in Justin Raad three batters into the inning. Hrbek later worked a bases loaded walk for his second RBI of the game. Then, with two outs, Tom Agosta delivered with a bases-clearing double to left field to make it 6-2 in favor of the Bears.
"We were feeling great at the time," said Inserra. "At that point, we took the lead in the first and then (Liberty) came back with two. So, the second was a big inning for us. I thought we needed to respond, so when we respond in that way and go up by four runs, we were really feeling good.
"I thought that all Hrbek needed to do was find that groove. We have seen that from him before where it takes him a few batters to find a groove. Then once he finds it he is pretty good. I was hoping that would be the case, but unfortunately it wasn't our day."
The second-inning runs would be the last Pleasant Valley would score the rest of the day, as Liberty went on to plate eight in the third on its way to a mercy-rule win. McCarthy blew the game open in the third with a bases-clearing double to make it 10-6. He finished the day 4-for-4 with two doubles, two singles, four RBIs, three runs scored and two stolen bases.
The Bears cap their 2012 season with an 11-13 record. It wasn't the easiest season for Inserra and his team, but he is proud of the way they competed throughout.
"Certainly our team had an up-and-down year," said Inserra. "We had many moments through the year where kids could have quit. I might call them 'quittable moments.' At no point did our guys ever quit.
"Not every season is going to be one like Liberty's. It's just not going to happen like that. I knew we would have to do a lot of little things and battle all year. We did at times, we didn't at other times. But I am happy with the effort.."
Pleasant Vy 150 00 – 6 6 2
Liberty 228 13 – 16 17 1
Hrbek, Pellei (3), Miceli (5) and Agosta; Darland and J. Bertolotti. W – Darland. L – Hrbek.