Mountain Ridge pitcher Matthew Liberatore and O’Connor third baseman Nolan Gorman know each other well.
The two grew up together and rose through the ranks among high school baseball’s best. They were Perfect Game All-Americans, University of Arizona commits and members of the gold medal-winning Team USA 18-U national team. Take a gander at the 2018 MLB draft prospects and you’ll find Liberatore ranked #3 among the field and Gorman sits at #4.
They’ve led both of their teams in their senior seasons. Through 25 games, Gorman has hit .403 with eight home runs 27 RBIs. Entering Thursday, Liberatore has thrown 35 innings, striking out 61 and sporting a 1.00 ERA.
On Thursday night, the two squared off.
Gorman ended up going 0/3 against Liberatore, putting the ball in play twice, which was something not many Eagles could do on Thursday. The left-handed pitcher racked up 13 strikeouts in 5.1 innings, leading Mountain Ridge to a 2-1 victory.
“I mean, he goes after me, I go after him,” Gorman said. “I put the ball in play and as a team we did what we needed to do.”
Gorman said they have squared off four different times and it’s been pretty even between the two. When asked if the power-hitting third baseman has gone deep on his friend, Gorman smiled and said, “Not yet.”
For the two friends, their relationship is so much more than baseball. Having to balance travel baseball, school, the pressure that comes wth being a top prospect and delivering in their senior seasons can be a lot, and having a friend who is going through similar situations has helped both players.
“It’s nice off the field because we can hang out and that doesn’t have to be a topic of conversation,” Liberatore siad. “We can be two 17 or 18-year-old kids that go about their business and don’t have to worry about (the pressure) and bounce things off each other because we’re both in that situation.”
And while Liberatore might have won the matchup on Thursday night, the each player continues to push the other to new heights.
“He pushes me,” Gorman said. “We’re best friends, so he pushes me every day, and I push him. I mean if we’re together, we’re doing something to get better no matter what.”