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The Liberty Flames baseball team just refuses to stop winning. Fresh off a Big South Championship in May and an NCAA regional appearance, many Flames played in collegiate summer baseball leagues. However, four Flames added even more championships to their resumes after capturing titles in two different leagues.
Junior outfielder Ashton Perritt led his Licking County Settlers to the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League title Aug. 4 and was selected to the league’s all-star team, taking the batting title as the top hitter in the league. Not to be outdone, the trio of senior Danny Grauer and juniors Alex Close and Jared Lyons contributed to the Peninsula Pilots pursuit of the Coastal Plain League Championship, finishing the job on Aug. 17.
As the summer started out, the game itself remained the same, but host families and fewer off days made it a different game than the one they are used to.
Wooden bats are also used in summer leagues because, according to Perritt, scouts prefer to see prospects hit with wooden bats, which are used in professional baseball.
“It’s nice because you can actually go inside on people, sometimes break their bats,” Lyons, a pitcher, said.
Catcher Alex Close found himself having to make adjustments in the batter’s box as well.
“It makes you really focus on your swing, because you don’t get cheap hits with a wooden bat very often.” Close said. “And you know too with the wood, if you get it, you really get it. It’s just that crack.”
According to Grauer, both leagues attract some of the best collegiate talent from across the country, so those who need a place to stay are assigned host families for the summer, yet another difference. Close and Perritt stayed with host families, while Lyons and Grauer commuted from their own families’ homes, which were near the ballpark.
“It was a different experience,” Perritt said. “It took a lot of getting used to. I had a few responsibilities around the house, but it was a great family, a good experience overall.”
According to Perritt, he also had to adjust to the 50-to-60-plus game schedule and the additional energy it required.
“Normally during the season I’m just all out, diving around, falling all over,” Perritt said. “But during summer ball I had to take care of myself more, make sure I’m stretched out, make sure I’m loose, hydrate, get a lot of rest at night.”
As the Flames turn their focus back to Liberty baseball in the spring, their desire to win has not diminished.
“The championships, we were talking about it the other day,” Close said. “We have like a winning swag about us now. There’s no Coastal (Carolina) chip on the shoulder. We’re the ones that have to be
Although the Flames did claim the 2013 Big South title, Perritt has already set his goals for 2014 even higher.
“I’m just hungry for more,” Perritt said. “We got a small taste of what we can do last year. This year, I feel like we’re a lot more capable.”
When the Flames open their season in 2014, the playing field will again be evened and the best team will take home the title, but for now, they are still champions.