Flames take three of four games in Invitational against Rider and Ball St.
Liberty 13, Ball State 0
The Liberty Flames baseball team (7-6, 0-0 Big South) used a combination of small ball, timely hitting and dominant pitching to piece together a 13-0 annihilation of the Ball State Cardinals (9-3, 0-0 MAC) Saturday, March 1 in the first game of the Liberty University Invitational.
The Flames combined for 15 hits from 10 different players, including six of the extra base variety, while a combination of four pitchers held the Cardinals to just four hits in the contest.
The Flames wasted no time getting on the board, as Ashton Perritt started the bottom of the first inning with a walk and advanced to third base after a perfectly executed hit and run by Nick Lacik, who singled through the left side of the infield. Ryan Seiz then drove home Perritt with a sacrifice fly to left field, giving the Flames an early 1-0 advantage.
“It’s really nice when we can actually support our pitchers,” Seiz said. “We haven’t really been scoring early in the games. (Trey) Lambert gave us a real nice start, so we felt like we needed to get some run support for him.”
That one run was all the Flames needed as Lambert shut down the Cardinals with six innings of shutout ball, allowing three hits and striking out two, improving his record to 2-1 on the season.
“We know that we have to crush the ball every time we get out there,” Seiz said. “But it’s also nice knowing that kids like Lambert and Blake Fulghum are going out there and are able to (pitch well). We just need to play good defense when they’re out there.”
In the bottom of the second inning though, the Flames added to their lead. A sacrifice bunt by Clay Karenen advanced Andrew Yacyk and Jake Kimble, who reached on a single and a walk respectively. Perritt then doubled down the third-base line, upping the Flames lead to 3-0. Later in the inning, Lacik walked and Seiz reached on an infield single. The next batter, Dalton Britt, drove home both Lacik and Seiz for two of his four RBIs on the day with a single up the middle, giving the Flames a 5-0
“We played against Missouri, and we were swinging it well, but just right at people,” Seiz said. “Today, obviously, the bats came alive, and it’s nice because we have such a powerful lineup. Up and down the lineup, it’s a tough out.”
Liberty added four more runs in the bottom of the fourth inning on four hits, including an RBI triple by Seiz to the gap in right field, a single by Yacyk that drove home two more Flames and a sacrifice fly by Keranen to cap off the inning.
The Flames scored four more runs throughout the rest of the game, including two in the fifth, one in the sixth and one run in the eighth to cap off a 13-run outburst.
Liberty 3, Rider 1
The Flames pitching staff followed up their shutout of the Ball State Cardinals Saturday, March 1 at the Liberty Invitational with another dominating performance on the mound by freshman Parker Bean in their second game of the day, a 3-1 victory over the Rider University Broncs.
Although the Flames offense could not replicate their 13-run outburst in their second game of the day, a couple timely hits proved enough for a win. With two outs in the third inning and Keranen on third base, the Broncs chose to intentionally walk Seiz, who to that point had gone 4-for-5 with two RBIs on the day. Despite the Broncs show of strategy, catcher Danny Grauer drove in Keranen with a single, and designated hitter Becker Sankey followed with an RBI double.
The Flames tacked on an insurance run in the fifth inning with an RBI single by Britt, bringing the score to 3-0. The Broncs did scratch out a run in the seventh inning with an RBI groundout, a runner that relief pitcher Jared Lyons inherited after Bean’s exit, but the Flames bullpen retired seven straight batters to end the game.
Although Bean did not have as much run support as game one starting pitcher, Lambert, the 6-foot-5-inch freshman was able to hold the Broncs in check, never allowing a runner to reach third base.
“I think, as a pitcher, you always want the biggest lead possible,” Bean said. “It just makes you that much more comfortable when you have a big lead like that. The tight games are always fun too, because the energy is high, and you’re waiting for that big hit.”
Bean made his first collegiate start in a loss against the University of South Florida Feb. 15 and collected his first collegiate win Feb. 22 against Ohio University. After his third appearance Saturday, Bean marked another “first” in his collegiate career — his first postgame towel full of shaving cream to the face.
“It’s just fun when you get on a roll like this, and hopefully we can keep it going,” Bean said as the sound of Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” emanated from the Flames locker room. “When you’re doing well, things are up, and everyone is just high-energy. As a baseball team, that’s all you can ask for. It just makes it that much more fun.”
Bean further solidified his spot in the Flames starting rotation against Rider, pitching six solid innings and allowing the only run that Flames pitchers would surrender all day in 18 innings. Although the season is only a few weeks old, early indications are that Flames Head Coach Jim Toman will rely on Saturday’s starters, Bean and the senior right-hander Lambert to eat up significant innings as starting pitchers, with junior Carson Herndon and senior Blake Fulghum also expected to make their share of starts on the mound.
Bean, who Toman described as a freshman with a good arm who will improve as his knowledge of pitching improves, pointed to his relaxed mindset as a key to his success as a freshman.
“It’s just a game, playing the game that I love,” Bean said. “I think it just comes down to that, when you can be on the mound and be comfortable and just pitch your game. It allows you to be relaxed.”
The Flames continued competing in the Liberty Inviational Sunday, March 2 with rematches against both Ball State and
Ball State 4, Liberty 3
Just a day after defeating Ball State 13-0, Liberty could not overcome a 4-0 deficit, falling to the Cardinals 4-3 Sunday afternoon in the third game of the Liberty University Invitational.
Flames starting pitcher Blake Fulghum let the Cardinals get on the board in the first two innings by way of a sacrifice fly by Brandon Estep in the first and a ground-rule double in the second by Sean Godfrey.
In the fourth, Fulghum surrendered two more runs to the Cardinals as they doubled their lead with a two-run home run by Godfrey.
However, the Flames responded in the bottom of the inning with two runs of their own, cutting the Cardinals lead in half.
Seiz continued his hot hitting during the weekend with a one-out double to set up Becker Sankey, who drove him home with a double of his own. Two batters later, Britt drove home Seiz with a groundout to cut the deficit to 4-2.
In the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, Liberty managed to push across just one run despite loading the bases in the sixth and having runners in scoring position in the seventh and eighth innings.
Liberty 11, Rider 2
In the fourth and final game of the Liberty University Invitational, first baseman Alex Close led the Flames with five RBIs in part of an 11-2 victory over the Broncs.
The Flames wasted no time getting on the board, putting up five runs in the bottom of the first inning, including a two-run home run by Seiz.
Close collected the first two of his five RBIs later in the inning with a single up the middle to extend the Flames lead to 4-0.
The offensive onslaught continued in the bottom half of the second inning. After a walk by Will Shepard and a walk by Seiz, Yacyk hit a ground-rule double over the right-center field wall to drive home Shepard. Close then followed that up with another two-run single, bringing Liberty’s lead to 8-0.
Liberty plated three more runs in the sixth inning with RBI singles by Yacyk, Close and Britt.
Starting pitcher Carson Herndon evened his record at 1-1 for the season after six innings of shutout baseball for the Flames, allowing just two hits.
The Broncs finally salvaged two runs in the top of the ninth to bring the final score to 11-2.
The Flames next game will take place in Durham, N.C., Wednesday, March 5 as they take on the Duke Blue Devils.