For almost a month, Liberty North High School pitcher Jake Bartshe watched his team from the dugout because an injured back kept him off the mound.
But it was Bartshe himself doling out the pain Monday night, when he threw a complete game two-hitter in his first start since the injury. He led Liberty North to a 2-0 win over Liberty.
“I know the boys were excited to play with me tonight, so I wanted to give the best I could,” Bartshe said. “I felt a lot more confident after I got that first inning out of the way.”
Bartshe struck out two in the first inning, and steamrolled onward. Before he walked seventh-inning leadoff hitter Ben Kunkel, Bartshe had retired 11 batters in a row through the core of the game. He finished with seven strikeouts, walked two and helped boost Liberty North to a 14-10 record.
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North’s offense wasn’t potent by any means — six hits and two runs, scored by pinch runner Parker Sims and Carl Occhipinto. Until Nick Fuller batted in Occhipinto with a single to center in the bottom of the sixth, North had been clinging to its original 1-0 lead. Two innings earlier, Sims had slid under a tag at home thanks to a zipping single to right from Drew Geisert.
But with Bartshe dealing, those two runs were enough.
“He was the pitcher we know he can be and that was huge for us leading into districts. It’s just huge,” North coach Ryan Stegall said. “It’s almost like picking up another pitcher. We’ve been using him in the bullpen a little, but to have him come out here and start and do what he did, it was awesome.”