Falcons return some promising players from last year's team

Liberty head coach Jackson Gillett is just not quite sure what kind of baseball team he has on his hands this spring.

On the one hand, the Falcons bring back some talented pieces from a solid 2013 squad that went 16-12 and advanced to the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.

On the other hand, Liberty is young after losing six regular starters from last season and welcoming a lot of new players to varsity — of the 17 players on this year’s squad, only five are seniors.

“We’re always excited to get the season going and to see what the new season brings, but at the same time I always panic as a head coach because there’s always a million things that I want to get in,” Gillett said.

“We got a lot of the elementary-level stuff in, but we also do a lot of advanced things, and we still have to get to some of the stuff.”

Still, the Falcons bring plenty of talent to bear in the uber-competitive Northwest Oregon Conference, which includes 2011 and 2013 state champion Sherwood, plus 2013 state semifinalist Wilsonville.

Two of the big names coming back for Liberty this year are juniors Ryan Kaser and Tyler Parker. Both players participated in last summer’s inaugural Futures Game, an all-star showcase for some of the top young baseball talent in the state.

Kaser went 8-4 in his sophomore campaign, posting a 1.96 earned run average to go with 68 strikeouts. Somehow that earned him only honorable mention all-league honors, but he is back to harass opposing batters in 2013. He also started in center field last spring when not on the pitching mound.

“We’re very excited about what Ryan brings,” Gillett said.

Parker, a third baseman, was an all-league second team pick after batting .359 and producing 28 hits, eight RBIs and 13 runs scored. Gillett said he is already getting recruited by Division I college programs.

“He’s literally one of the best hitters in the state,” Gillett noted.

In addition to Kaser, classmates Jared Akin and Brandon Wise should see some time on the mound, as will sophomore Renner Stecki. Gillett said all three of them throw in the low 80s, and both Wise and Stecki pitched some impressive games in summer play and can also play at shortstop.

Other returners include Kyle Rose, Austin Krieck and Mike McBride, the team’s three senior captains. Rose was the team’s No. 2 hitter last season, while Krieck was an all-league honorable mention pick at first base. McBride started at second base but is moving back to his natural position at catcher.

“Defensively, we think he’s the best around,” Gillett said of McBride behind the plate.

Another senior, Cameron Colbert has made the varsity for the first time. He was the junior varsity squad’s top hitter last season and Gillett expects for him to start in left field.

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