Thursday, April 24, 2014

Softball sweep

Coach Wetmore: everyone contributed in three-game series

The Lady Flames softball team (13-12, 2-1) swept the Presbyterian Blue Hose (14-14, 0-2 Big South) Friday, March 22 and Saturday, March 23. Including all of the weekend games, the Lady Flames have won six of their last seven.

Liberty 5, Presbyterian 4

In game one, Hanna Nichols stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs. With runners on first and third, she drove a fastball to the left centerfield gap to give the Lady Flames a 5-4 win in extra innings.

“Hanna had a great game,” Head Coach Paul Wetmore said. “Not just the winning hit, but she really battled and had some great at-bats. She really came to play today.”

Despite the victory, the game was a long and grueling affair for the Lady Flames.

Clutch — A Lady Flames walk-off in game one helped build momentum for the rest of the series. Photo credit: Jake Mitchell

“They shut us down — they really did a good job,” Wetmore said. “We battled, had some opportunities and didn’t get it done, but we didn’t give up then (and) got it done in the end.”

The Blue Hose took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when freshman Kenzie Friesen threw a wild pitch that rolled to the backstop, allowing the runner on third to score.

Despite the Blue Hose early momentum, the Lady Flames quickly responded with four runs of their own in the bottom of the first.

replaced Frisen on the mound. Ball was able to help Liberty escape the inning with a 4-3 lead despite a costly error during which they gave up two runs.

Presbyterian added another run in the top of the fourth inning to tie the game at four, but both teams remained scoreless until the ninth — mainly because of quality pitching.

“Chandler really did a terrific job,” Wetmore said. “You ask someone to come in relief and throw that many innings, and for her to shut them down like that, she did a great job.”

The score remained tied at four through seven innings, so the game entered extra innings to decide the victor.

After the uneventful seventh and eighth innings, the Lady Flames were able to capitalize on Nichols’ game-winning hit in the ninth.

Allen reached first on a fielder’s choice with two outs, and Kensley Loudermelk of the Blue Hose threw two wild pitches that allowed Allen to reach third.

Loudermelk then walked junior Grace Nordon to first base, which set the stage for Nichols.

“When I get prepared to get in the box, I always tell myself, ‘Come on Hanna, you can do this,’” Nichols said. “I always look at a certain spot on the bat and stay calm through
it all.”

Nichols’ calm demeanor helped her deliver the clutch hit, and she knew there was only one thing left to do to clinch the victory for the Lady Flames.

“Coach Tuesday (Van Engen) told me rounding first, just touch the base, and we got it,” Nichols said. “It was just so exciting — it was the whole team, not just me.”

Nichols was 3-5 in the game with an RBI, and Ball picked up the win in relief, throwing the final 7 2/3 innings of the game for the Lady Flames and only allowing one earned run on 10 hits.

Liberty 2, Presbyterian 1

The Lady Flames kept their winning streak alive Friday, taking game two against the Blue Hose.

In the bottom of the third inning, junior Katie Zavodny hit a single to right field. Sophomore Amber Donovan followed and brought Zavodny home with a home run over the right field fence.

“I was just focusing on trying to make contact and put the ball in place so we could score runs,” Donovan said. “I was just kind of shocked, like, ‘Whoa, I just hit that.’ It felt good.”

Donovan’s home run makes it her fourth of the season.

The Blue Hose came fighting back in the top of the fifth with a home run from Erin Ruff to cut Liberty’s lead in half.

The Lady Flames fans were on the edge of their seats in the bottom of the fourth. The bases were loaded with only one out, and Presbyterian pitcher Cat Tarvin threw back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning.

Liberty held the Blue Hose to only one run in the last three innings, allowing them one hit.

Nichols was 3-for-3 in the game, and Allen batted 2-for-3. Zavodny’s single kept her 17-game hitting streak alive, tying her with Beth Bennett for the second longest in program history.

Putting it together — The Lady Flames earned their first sweep of the season against the Blue Hose. Photo credit: Jake Mitchell

“Overall, I am really pleased with the way we battled through the whole thing and held — it really shows some character,” Wetmore said. “The only way you get these wins is if everyone contributes.”

Liberty 8, Presbyterian 6

Nichols capped off a four-run rally in the fifth when she smacked her fourth home run of the season in route to an 8-6 victory for the Lady Flames. The bats started icy cold for the Lady Flames as the first eight batters were retired by Presbyterian starter Kensley Loudermelk.

During the icy start, Presbyterian jumped out to a 3-0 lead on the back of two home runs from Shelby Petik and Morgan Durham. The Blue Hose hot start was snapped by a two-out walk to Lawrence followed by a single by Zavodny that moved Lawrence to third.

Donovan brought two runs home to cut the deficit down to 3-2. Allen then gave the Lady Flames a 4-3 lead on a two-run double.

The Blue Hose jumped in front to a 5-4 lead when Legacki smacked a two-run home run over the fence. The lead was short lived as Allen once again came through with a clutch hit, ripping a two-run double to put the Lady Flames ahead 6-5. Nichols then sent her fourth home run of the season over the fence to go ahead, 8-5.

The Blue Hose tried to answer back when Shelby Petik sent her second home run over the fence, but the Lady Flames managed to close out and take the victory 8-6 and earn the series sweep.

Sophomore Amber Donovan tied the score with a solo home run, and Allen added a three-run home run for the Lady Flames to give them a 4-1 lead at the close of the first inning.

After an unsteady start to the second inning and with the Lady Flames lead in jeopardy, sophomore Chandler Ball

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