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Flames eager to repeat as Big South baseball tournament champions

Baseball Season Outlook 2014

Liberty University’s baseball team is entering its 2014 campaign with confidence, looking to make its second season in the new stadium even more memorable than its first. 

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The team has been picked to win the North Division of the Big South Conference, receiving six first-place votes in the league’s annual preseason poll.

Last season, Liberty won the conference championship, which was held in the new $20 million Liberty Baseball Stadium. The Flames then advanced to the NCCAA Division I Regional, where they beat Clemson twice to make it to their first NCAA Regional final. Liberty ended the year at 36-29 and ranked No. 26 in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper’s final Fabulous 40 NCAA Division I baseball poll.

2014 schedule features hard hitters

Liberty’s 2014 schedule appears even more challenging than last year’s, with early-season matchups against Missouri, Richmond, Old Dominion (in its Feb. 18 home opener), Ohio, and NCAA Regional participant UNC Wilmington (in the Feb. 21-23 tournament at UNCW). The Flames host conference rival Campbell in a three-game series March 14-16 and Virginia Tech on March 30 before traveling to Virginia on May 7. They also host perennial Big South powerhouse Coastal Carolina in a three-game series May 9-11.

“The schedule keeps getting better every year and we can bring better teams in here now that we’ve got this new stadium,” Liberty Head Coach Jim Toman said. “It’s probably one of the better stadiums in the country and we’re blessed to have it.”

Returning players provide leadership

The Flames will look for leadership from returning stars like Ashton Perritt, a junior centerfielder and closer out of the bullpen. Last season Perritt batted .343, boasted a 2.09 ERA with 10 saves, and was named Big South Tournament MVP. He is only the second Liberty player ever to be named to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers of America Preseason All-America team.

Danny Grauer, who can catch, pitch, or play first base, led Liberty with seven home runs last year and was the fourth and final Flames player selected in the MLB Draft, though he opted to return for his senior season.

Liberty returns pitchers Trey Lambert, Carson Herndon, and Jared Lyons. Lambert, a right-hander, paced the staff with eight wins last season.

Strong new players round out a solid line-up

Toman said the newcomers have challenged the returning starters for playing time from day one. 

“We’ve got a lot of moving parts and we do have five or six guys back, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to be starting because we’ve got guys that are pushing them, so it’s going to be good,” Toman said. “There are a lot of new faces, so more than half of the team is going to be new. But the fall season was very productive and we had a high amount of energy and the guys are real excited to see what we can do this spring.”

Baseball is one of 20 NCAA Division I athletic teams at Liberty. Purchase season tickets and follow your favorite Flames sports teams at www.Liberty.edu/Flames.