Tuesday, September 23, 2014

LU sweeps VMI, eyes playoffs

After sweeping a weekend series with Virginia Military Institute (VMI) April 26-28, the Liberty Flames baseball team is approaching the home stretch of the season, and with only seven regular season games left to play, the Flames find themselves fighting for a spot in the Big South Conference Tournament.

Last season, the Flames finished second to the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers for the Big South Championship. This year, the nearly completed Liberty Baseball Stadium will play host to a tournament May 21-25 that might not include the Flames.

Even though Liberty has dominated opponents in home games this year — the team boasts a 17-6 record at the new stadium — there is still some work to be done if they want to put that home-field advantage to good use in the tournament.

As of now, the Flames overall record stands at 26-20, and they are in third place in the Big South Conference with an 11-7 record. Only the teams ranked in the top eight in the conference at the end of the regular season will qualify for the tournament, and although the team’s chances of making the tournament significantly improved after their offensive outbursts against VMI, the Flames final regular season games will be crucial to making the playoffs.

As the Flames scratched out a series win by taking two out of three games from the Winthrop Eagles April 20-21, one Liberty baseball alumnus who was in attendance had some playoff baseball experience of his own to share.

Sid Bream played at Liberty University before being drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1981, according to Baseball Reference. Bream played 11 years of Major League Baseball and is mostly remembered for scoring the winning run that sent the 1992 Atlanta Braves to the World Series — a play Braves fans affectionately remember as “The Slide.”

Bream, whose son Austin is a freshman on the Liberty baseball team, said that the Flames key to succeeding in the home stretch lies in their mental approach to the game.

“I think they just need to relax,” Bream said. “I think that they need to get to the place where they just start to trust themselves, be comfortable with themselves and just go out and play the game of baseball like they know how.”

The new Liberty Baseball Stadium is just one sign that the Flames baseball program has grown considerably since the former Flames first baseman played in Lynchburg. After last year’s defeat at the hands of Coastal Carolina, Bream hopes for even more growth and success in the Flames future.

“They’ve got to get to the place where they start taking the next step,” Bream said. “They can’t continue to be second and third in the Big South. They need to start going to regionals and things like that.

Obviously, the school is doing a great job, but they need to get to that place where they are taking the next step.”

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