As baseball season begins to heat up around the league, the Liberty Flames season continues to cool down. The Flames were unable to find a victory in last weekend’s three game series against conference rival Coastal Carolina.
The Flames took a 5-3 loss in the series opener, and the Chanticleers bullpen was a big reason for the Flames struggles. Five relief pitchers combined to throw five scoreless innings for the Chanticleers.
Liberty third baseman Dalton Sype faced relief pitchers in two of his four at-bats and went 3-for-4 with three singles and a run batted in on the day.
“Not a lot of times does a team put out two sidearm pitchers, two that are pretty effective,” Sype said. “They’re not just guys that throw it up there. They’re guys that have movement on the ball. They were really good.”
The Flames opened the scoring in the second inning with a solo home run from first baseman Alex Close.
“He threw a first-pitch slider,” Close said. “I had a feeling he was coming back with the fastball, and he tried to sneak one inside. I was able to get my hands through it.”
The Chanticleers answered in the fourth with a home run of their own from right fielder Daniel Bowman. Liberty reclaimed the lead with two runs in the fourth, but a three-run sixth inning by Coastal Carolina and an insurance run in the top of the ninth proved too much for the Flames to overcome.
“We figured out where we stand, and we learned something about Coastal,” Sype said. “They’re not the same Coastal
we saw last year and the year before. We feel we’re the better team. We just didn’t come up with the victory tonight.”
The Flames also dropped the second game of the series Friday night by a score of 4-2. The Flames allowed two runs in the first inning and another two in the fifth inning, but mounted a comeback in the seventh.
Liberty catcher Trey Wimmer and right-fielder Danny Grauer came around to score on a two-out single by left-fielder Ian Parmley, bringing the Flames to within two. The Chanticleers changed pitchers, and before a pitch was even thrown, Parmley was promptly picked off at first base, ending the rally.
“We have to get guys on and get them around and in, especially with a (Chanticleer pitching) staff like that, with one of the lowest earned run averages in the conference.” Grauer said.
The Flames made one more attempt to tie the game in the ninth inning, but a double play and a groundout to the pitcher ended the game at 4-2.
Flames starting pitcher John Niggli lasted into the eighth inning, giving up four runs and striking out six.
Coastal Carolina starting pitcher Tyler Herb held the Flames scoreless until giving up the two seventh inning runs scored by Grauer and Wimmer.
The Chanticleers completed their sweep Saturday, defeating the Flames 7-1 in game three.
Patrick Eckelbarger was the Flames starting pitcher for the day, and he made quick work of the Chanticleers in the first and second inning with one strikeout.
The game remained scoreless on both sides until the third inning, when it all fell apart for Eckelbarger. He walked two batters and gave up four hits —ultimately resulting in him coming off the mound.
“The first and second inning I was on a little bit more, but I don’t know what happened in the third,” Eckelbarger said. “I’m going to keep working, keep throwing and come out every day and do what I can to get better.”
The Flames closed out the top of the third after allowing three runs. It looked like they were going to answer back in the bottom of the inning after Dalton Sype came in for the Flames first and only run off a base hit by Ian Parmely, but the Flames batters were shut down the rest of the day.
The Chanticleers scored three more runs in the top of the fifth. However, they were shut down by a pitching change in the fifth when Liberty closer Patrick Bankemper came in and struck out two batters. Coastal got its last run at the top of the sixth after one batter was walked and another was hit by a pitch —setting up a perfect RBI scenario for Bowmen.
Justin Sizemore had a double in the second, which was Liberty’s biggest hit of the day, but he was ultimately left stranded on second.
“They were obviously a good pitching team,” Sizemore said. “They were locating hidden spots all weekend and series long. They’ve got a good pitching staff, and they have the lowest ERA in the nation. We just couldn’t put it together as a team. We have got to give credit to them and tip our hats because they shut us down the whole weekend.”
The Flames will face North Carolina A&T May 2.