Liberto continues strong start

Senior Michael Liberto is hitting .486 this season.
Katie Prince / Graphic Designer

In a rain-shortened 10-3 victory over Western Illinois on Wednesday, Missouri senior shortstop Michael Liberto continued his strong start to the season with two hits and two RBIs. Liberto's season batting average is now .486.

Liberto's hot hitting started right away at the Collegiate Cactus Classic in February and continued through the Houston College Classic last weekend, where he had five hits, including two against No. 7 TCU. He showed no signs of slowing down in the first home game of the season Wednesday with a 2-for-3 performance.

After a first inning groundout, Liberto had a base hit in the third inning and then a single up the middle in the fourth inning to drive in two runs. Liberto left the game in the sixth inning after the Tigers built a 10-1 lead.

"He's a lot more relaxed this year," coach Tim Jamieson said. "And he's a lot more confident, both offensively and defensively. Being around for a second year, it helps you do that."

Liberto is one of two seniors for Missouri this season. The other is first baseman Aaron Senne, who went 1-for-4 and scored two runs Wednesday.

"I'm just trying to stay consistent, keep a consistent approach," Liberto said. "I'm just trying to show all these young guys that if you stay true to your approach you'll be fine."

Liberto, who came into the game Wednesday batting a team-high .471, batted last in the line-up.

"He's either a leadoff guy or a nine-hole guy," Jamieson said. "He seems to excel down there at the bottom of the order. He just needs to get on base. He just needs to compete, and he does, he's like another leadoff man."

Liberto transferred to Missouri from Delgado Community College in New Orleans before last season. He was a member of the team that went to the Junior College World Series in 2007.

"He's real focused up there and you can tell he's zoned in every time he goes to the plate," Senne said. "He doesn't waste any at-bats and he doesn't waste any pitches. He's really dialed in."

Early season success is not anything new to Liberto, who put together a seven-game hit streak from Feb. 28 to March 8 last season. But Liberto finished the season with a .243 batting average.

"It's just my confidence is a lot better than last year," Liberto said. "Last year, I just didn't feel right at all. I just felt like the pitchers were just dominating, but that's not the case (this year)."

Liberto and Senne are the only Tigers who have started in all 10 games this season, and they lead the team with 18 and 14 hits respectively. The two seniors hope they can continue to hit well and help their teammates.

"Hitting is contagious," said Senne, who is batting .326 with four home runs this season.

Liberto, Senne and the rest of the Tigers will try to continue their success at home against Xavier this weekend.

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