Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Spring, the season of success

Hockey, baseball, lacrosse, golf and track and field programs for the Flames excell during the spring season

Unlike a year ago, there were not any Cinderella runs from sports that carried over from the fall. Both basketball teams were ousted in the Big South Conference tournament, and while Division I (D1) and Division II hockey put together great seasons, they fell short in the playoffs as well.

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Last season, Liberty athletics captured four spring conference championships. While baseball, men’s lacrosse and the men’s and women’s track teams face the pressure of repeating, other teams strived to make improvements.

After finishing second in the Big South Conference tournament, the Liberty Flames golf team won its third conference title in four years. In the three-day event, the Flames squeaked by the Charleston Southern Buccaneers, ending the tournament three-over par as a team.

Senior Chase Marinell ended the tournament one-under par, which placed him in fourth in the top 20. Junior Mathieu Fenasse, redshirt senior Jacob Mast and senior Niklas Lindstrom joined Marinell in the top 20. Marinell earned the Big South Golfer of the Year and headlined the all-conference team, which also included Lindstrom and Fenasse.

Consistency and dominance is what defines the men’s and women’s track and field teams. In March, the men’s indoor track and field team clinched its 17th consecutive Big South Championship. About a month later, the Flames obtained their eighth straight outdoor conference championship.

After winning the outdoor championship last year, the women failed to earn their 14th conference title. Both indoor and outdoor track and field teams were narrowly defeated by their rival, the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers.

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The baseball team looked to build on its success from its NCAA regional run. After defeating Clemson twice, the Flames could not overcome South Carolina. Although the Flames got off to a 5-5 start, they quickly bounced back and got hot. After a 4-3 loss to Ball State on March 2, Liberty went 28-4 and is currently first in the Big South.

Liberty’s pitching staff, led by senior Trey Lambert, put together 60-plus scoreless innings against the Flames’ opponents. They are also first in ERA in the Big South and are in the top 20 in the NCAA in that category as well. Their lineup has been anchored by second baseman Ryan Seiz. The Louisville transfer leads the team in just about every hitting category. Seiz’s .392 batting average places him in the top 30 in the NCAA.

With eight games remaining in the regular season, Liberty’s baseball team hopes to clinch the No. 1 seed heading into the Big South Conference Championship at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., May 20-24.

The men’s lacrosse team moved up a division, which should be a challenge for most teams. Normally, it takes a few years for a team to get adjusted to new foes they face. This was not the case for the Flames. At the end of the regular season, Liberty finished 11-3 and is attempting to clinch its first D1 Southeastern Lacrosse Conference Championship in its first year.

Golf and the men’s and women’s track teams hope to prolong their seasons as they prepare for the NCAA tournament. With the season coming to a close, it will be intriguing to see how far the men’s lacrosse and baseball teams can go. as well.

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