Memories of title run by Liberty linger on But coach reminds players to move on

March 20, 1998|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,SUN STAFF

The memory of Liberty High School's run to last year's Class 3A state championship is still bright in the minds of those who were a part of it. This is particularly true of coach Steve Insley and the returning players from that team.

Basically, however, all that counts for in the spring of 1998 is the knowledge that 1997 was a great year.

"Each team has its own identity, and every year is different," Insley said. "Of course, this year is different because we have the added pressure of being the defending champion."

Still, "just like the other teams, we want to come out strong right from the start. However, I have told the team not to get down if we don't start winning right away. Right now, our goal is the same as always -- be competitive and peak for the playoffs."

The Lions did that to perfection last spring, winning their last three games of the regular season and six in the playoffs.

They whipped four teams in regional play, scored 12 runs in the first inning of a 16-1 state semifinal victory over Parkville, and beat Centennial for the title, 9-3.

One could almost see it coming, because the team was deep and loaded with talent. The leaders were three-year starters who had gone to the regional semifinals as juniors.

Said Insley: "The chemistry was right from the beginning, but until you get to the playoffs and go up against teams you haven't seen, you don't know how you compare. Then, when you feel like you can play anyone -- beat anyone -- you're tough to beat."

Of the late-season run, the fifth-year coach added, "We peaked at the right time, and got on a roll. In one stretch, we had four games in five days and won three of them. From there, we want on finish with a nine-game winning streak."

That's old news, however, and now it's time to begin writing a new chapter. Defending champion means you were good last year, and of that pressure Insley said, "We have good kids, and they'll be able to handle it.

Pub Date: 3/20/98

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