Feb 23, 2010

Baseball kicks season off with sweep of Kennesaw State

by Axel Cerny

You may not believe it after looking outside this morning at the remaining mounds of snow, but baseball season is finally underway. College baseball has kicked off its regular season at last, and for the Liberty Flames baseball club that meant heading to Kennesaw, Ga., over the weekend for their first three games of the season against the Kennesaw State Owls.

After closing out last year with the most Big South Conference wins in school history —17 — and returning seven of their eight position starters from last season, the Flames are poised for one of their best years to date.

They started things off on the right foot this weekend, sweeping the three-game series from the Owls, who were selected to finish fourth by the conference preseason poll in the competitive Atlantic Sun Conference.

The club has been picked to finish second in Big South Conference this year, but third-year head coach Jim Toman and this skilled lineup do not seem like they will be satisfied with anything but a Big South Championship after falling just short with a loss to Winthrop in the championship game last year.

“... The next step is winning the conference’s regular season title, or winning the Big South tournament, and getting into a NCAA regional,” Toman told LibertyFlames.com.

On Friday, the first pitch of the 2010 campaign was thrown at Stillwell Stadium down in Kennesaw and it didn’t take long for Liberty to get its bats going against the Kennesaw State Owls.
Just four batters into the contest, 2009 Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American Tyler Bream sliced a run scoring double down the right field line to give Liberty its first run of the season and a 1-0 lead. Two batters later, right fielder Michael Robertson laid down a squeeze bunt to plate the second run in the inning, making the score 2-0 heading into the bottom of the first.

Flames senior starter and captain Shawn Teufel toed the rubber for the Flames in the bottom of the frame, and after walking in one run, was able to get out of a jam by retiring two straight Owl hitters, and took a 2-1 lead in to the second inning.

The Flames picked up one more run in the third, and then busted the game open in the top of the sixth on a two-run single off the bat of senior centerfielder Curran Redal. Redal’s single was followed by a fly ball to center off the bat of Bream, which was misplayed by the Kennesaw State centerfielder.

In the eighth, Bream put the icing on the cake by belting the first Liberty home run of the season, a deep two-run blast over the roof of a building behind the left-field fence to reach the final score of 10-4.

On Saturday, the Flames rode the performance of 6-foot-5-inch right-hander Keegan Linza, a transfer from Northwest Florida State Community College. Linza yielded just one run on two hits through six innings, striking out eight and walking one.

Liberty upped its run total of the day before by one, scoring 11 runs on nine hits, to beat the Owls 11-2. The middle infield tandem of Matt Williams and P.J. Jimenez each had two hits for the Flames, while junior catcher Jerry Neufang drove in a game-high three runs.

Liberty set out on Sunday afternoon to complete the three-game sweep of the Owls, and their bats didn’t disappoint. Tyler Bream led the way, with four hits and three runs of his own as the Flames won with the same score that they did in the opening game of the series, 10-4.

For the third straight contest, the Flames jumped on the board in the top of the first inning. This time, Robertson singled to right field, plating second baseman Jimenez. Kennesaw State evened things in the bottom of the first, aided by an error by Liberty starter Steven Evans, but that would be as close at the Owls would get.

Liberty scored runs in the each of the first four innings, and with an 8-3 advantage in the ninth, the Flames tacked their final two runs on with back-to-back doubles by Bream and Robertson and an RBI single by designated hitter Austin Taylor.

Liberty starter Evans notched the win to move to 1-0 on the new season, allowing one run over four innings of work, while Owls starter Bryan Blough took the loss for Kennesaw State.

Contact Axel Cerny
at axelcerny@gmail.com.

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