GCC senior to play in Big 26 baseball game

| Thursday, July 17, 2014, 8:55 p.m.

Greensburg Central Catholic pitcher and middle-infielder Collin Liberatore, a rising senior, has been selected to represent Pennsylvania in the third annual Big 26 Baseball Classic, which will be played this weekend at Metro Bank Park in Harrisburg, and will pit the premier talent in the state against the best baseball players that Maryland has to offer.

Liberatore, who was one of five WPIAL players chosen to play in the event, said he is thrilled at the prospect of helping the Pennsylvania team defend its title against Maryland.

“I'm really excited and I can't wait for the opportunity and what good comes from it,” Liberatore said. “I've heard of a lot of the guys that are on the team before, and I'm excited to play with them.”

After grinding through a challenging junior season in which he missed considerable time due to a fractured thumb, Liberatore is looking forward to showing just what he is capable of now that he is at 100 percent.

“My thumb is completely healed now,” Liberatore said. “I have no limitations anymore. I've felt great this summer.”

The fractured thumb was enough to limit Liberatore's playing time but couldn't stop him from making a major impact on Greensburg Central Catholic's season. The 6-foot-3, 175-pound right-handed pitcher achieved a record of 3-1 on the mound, sported a 3.33 ERA and struck out 33 in 24 13 innings.

While the rising senior sports a power bat at the plate, Greensburg Central Catholic coach Anthony Manley sees Liberatore as a pitcher at the next level.

“He's got the size and the frame to be a pitcher at the next level,” Manley said. “He's got a great attitude toward the game of baseball. His fastball sits around 85-88 mph, but his strikeout pitch he relies on is his changeup.”

While most high school aces rely on their fastball or curveball for outs, Liberatore's strong handle on his changeup makes him unique among his peers. The pitch is one that he learned early on from his father, Craig, who pitched at Bowling Green and in turn, learned the pitch from MLB Cy Young-winner Orel Hershiser.

“My dad didn't want me throwing curveballs until I was 15 or 16,” Liberatore said. “So he taught me the changeup that he learned how to throw in college from Orel Hershiser.”

Liberatore hopes to take the changeup, along with the rest of his arsenal, to the next level of competition after he graduates from Greensburg Central Catholic next year. He's spending the majority of his summer playing ball, while also taking some time to visit a handful of Division I and Division II colleges that have shown interest in his baseball talent.

Liberatore hopes showing that talent in the Big 26 Baseball Classic will be one more important step in that direction.

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.

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