Mar 27, 2007

Baseball flops after series-opening victory

by Mitchell Malcheff, Sports Reporter
The Liberty Flames bats were scorching hot and the University of Maryland-Baltimore County Retrievers could not seem to find their offense last Wednesday in a non-conference game at Worthington Stadium.

The Flames offense notched 14 hits and 10 runs while the defense allowed only two runs behind a strong outing from junior David Stokes — who enjoyed the luxury of pitching most of the game with a comfortable lead.

“It really helps out a lot (pitching with a lead) – you can go in there and throw a lot more fastballs and try to get ahead in the count,” he said.

With the win, Stokes improved to 4-3 on the year. Head Coach Matt Royer was pleased with how well the Flames performed from both the plate and the field.

“We got good pitching (and) the guys swung the bats,” he said. “We had 14 hits, Dave did not walk a man in seven innings. We did a lot of good things today, and hopefully we can continue that.”

The Liberty attack was led by the three-headed monster of sophomore Kenneth Negron, senior Tim Nanry and junior P.K. Keller — all of whom recorded three hits in the game.

Nanry has been a huge source of offense this season, batting .333 with 22 RBI, including four home runs and seven doubles. No player for the Retrievers mustered more than one hit in the game as the Flames won big, 10-2.

On Friday against the High Point Panthers, senior Phil John came up big for the Flames in the first of a three-game weekend series.

John went three-for-five from the plate and netted four RBIs to lead the Flames to a 7-5 victory.
John has been a tough out this year at the plate, striking out just 12 times in 22 games en route to a .417 average with 18 RBIs.

The recurring theme for the Flames this year has been strong starting pitching, and junior Michael Solbach provided just that on his way to earning his fifth victory of the season.

Solbach pitched six innings and allowed just one run on five hits. He has allowed only 31 hits in 41.2 innings and has posted an impressive 1.73 ERA for the Flames.

Things would get tougher on Saturday, though, as the Flames faced the Panthers’ Eammon Portice, who, according to Royer, is one of the best pitchers in the Big South.

“He is certainly one of the top two pitchers in the conference,” said Royer.

Unfortunately for Royer and the Flames, Portice was that and more. The junior from Oakland Park, Fla., pitched seven shutout innings and recorded six strikeouts for the Panthers, who scored eight runs in the fifth on their way to a 10-2 victory.

The bats that had produced 32 runs in the last three games for the Flames fell silent.
No player had more than one hit for Liberty.

Sophomore Dustin Um-berger was roughed up by the Panthers, allowing nine runs on 11 hits in just 4.2 innings of work.

With the loss, Umberger drops to 2-3 on the season.

In the rubber match on Sunday, the Panthers kept up their winning ways, taking the weekend series, 8-4. For the second game in a row, Liberty managed only seven hits, and no player collected more than one hit.

Sophomore Tyler Light picked up his first loss of the year for the Flames, allowing seven hits and four earned runs in 4 1/3 innings.

Sophomore Tommy Bussey and Nanry both smashed solo homeruns for Liberty.

The top half of the High Point lineup did most of the damage to the Flames, pounding eight hits and driving in five RBI.

The loss drops Liberty to 16-10 on the season and a 3-2 record in the Big South Conference.
The Flames resume play this week on Wednesday at George Mason before they return home for a non-conference weekend series against the Monmouth Muhawks.

Contact Mitchell Malcheff at mjmalcheff@liberty.edu.

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