The Olentangy Liberty High School baseball team was solid in all three phases of the game -- hitting, pitching and fielding -- but according to coach Matt Lattig, the Patriots' success depended heavily on an intangible.

The Olentangy Liberty High School baseball team was solid in all three phases of the game -- hitting, pitching and fielding -- but according to coach Matt Lattig, the Patriots' success depended heavily on an intangible.

"The key for us was basically the kids' mental approach," he said. "We were mentally tougher than in years past. We were able to bounce back from adversity."

Liberty finished 23-6 overall, one win shy of the program record for victories in a season set in 2005 when it finished 24-6. The third-seeded Patriots had a first-round bye in the Division I district tournament and defeated Westerville South 8-1 in the second round May 14 and 12th-seeded Westerville North 7-4 in a district semifinal May 19 before losing to top-seeded Pickerington North 10-4 in a district final May 21.

The Patriots were ranked as high as second in the state poll and were fifth in the final poll. Pickerington North was second.

"Pickerington North is a real good team," senior third baseman and pitcher Tommy Waterwash said. "They hit the ball hard and hit it in places we weren't.

"We hit the ball well, too, but they definitely deserved that game."

Liberty captured its second OCC championship, going 12-2 in the OCC-Cardinal Division to tie Dublin Scioto for first ahead of Dublin Jerome (8-6), Westerville North (6-8), Marysville (5-9), Olentangy (5-9), Westerville Central (4-10) and Westerville South (4-10).

The Patriots won the OCC-Capital in 2005.

"It was a good season," Waterwash said. "We got a lot done this year. (The OCC title) was something we've wanted for a while, this group of seniors."

"We set our expectations high and we reached up and got them," Lattig said. "I think our kids performed as well as they could've. Our goals were to be in the league race and be in district contention, and we accomplished those goals. The kids worked hard. They put in the time in the offseason and they always gave 100 percent effort."

"I don't know if (the season) exceeded our expectations," Waterwash said. "Maybe if you asked people outside our team, maybe they would say we exceeded their expectations. But we believed in ourselves."

Liberty will lose six seniors in Waterwash, Justin Allen (INF/OF/P), Andrew Eckhardt (OF), Cale Garverick (DH/1B/OF), Jordy Martin (C) and John Merlina (OF). All but Allen and Garverick were regular starters.

Martin was first-team all-district and honorable mention all-league. Eckhardt made second-team all-district and first-team all-league and Waterwash made honorable mention all-district and second-team all-league.

"The seniors did a really great job leading this group," Lattig said. "The way they approached the game kept all the younger kids level."

Expected to return are juniors Stephen Crea (INF), Josh Dezse (1B/P), Blake Hampshire (INF/OF/P), Zach Michael (SS/P), Michael O'Neill (OF/P), Tanner Pontius (INF/P) and Tyler Stage (1B/P) and sophomores Michael Fries (INF/P) and Jimmy Waterwash (2B).

O'Neill and Stage were named first-team all-district and all-league. Dezse made first-team all-district and second-team all-league.

"We lose six seniors who contributed a lot, but we do have a lot experience coming back," Lattig said. "We have high expectations next year. The key is how the kids handle the success that we had this year."

At a glance

LIBERTY

•Record: 23-6 overall, 12-2 (tied for first) in OCC-Cardinal

•Seniors lost: Justin Allen, Andrew Eckhardt, Cale Garverick, Jordy Martin, John Merlina and Tommy Waterwash

•Key returnees: Josh Dezse, Zach Michael, Michael O'Neill and Tyler Stage