Apr 7, 2009

Flames take two of three from VMI

by Axel Cerny

In a season that will most likely tally up near 60 games, streaks become essential in college baseball. Teams battle into the heat of summer, after their classmates have graduated or retreated home for a three month haitus, to ride out win streaks as long as possible and cut short the losing skids that are certain to come.

Fortunately for the Liberty Flames this year, their experiences with streaks have been much more on the winning side than the losing. After rattling off nine straight victories entering last Monday’s contest, though, the Flames cooled off to lose three straight to open up this week. However, like a successful baseball team should, they bounced back quickly, winning their weekend series against Big South Conference foe Virginia Military Institute (VMI) this past weekend.

The Flames ball club suffered a loss on Tuesday, as they took their game to Norfolk, Va. to battle the 8-15 Monarchs of Old Dominion. Junior center fielder Curran Redal put the Flames in front 1-0 with an RBI single in the top of the third, but Old Dominion stole back the advantage for good in the bottom of the fourth on a single from Monarch third baseman Jake McAloose and a home run only two batters later off the bat of first baseman Joe Velleggia. Senior starter Cody Brown suffered the loss for Liberty despite pitching five strong innings, dropping his personal record to 1-1 on the season, while Monarch starter Chris Boggs picked up the win to move to 2-0.

Liberty was in Farmville, Va. on Thursday, for a visit with the Longwood Lancers. Once again, the Flames jumped to a 3-1 lead early, courtesy of a fielder’s choice, a wild pitch and an RBI single by freshman first baseman Trey Wimmer, but their lead would not hold. The Lancers scored four runs on four hits in the fourth, including a three-run double off the bat of shortstop Scott Kimble. Longwood would add a run in the fifth and seventh inning to finish with a 7-3 win over Liberty. Flames’ senior Tyler Light suffered the loss to fall to 1-2 on the year, while Mike Montgomery grabbed the win in relief to move the Lancers 16-9.

Friday night, the Flames opened up a three-game weekend series at Gray/Minor stadium in Lexington against Big South rival VMI. VMI entered the series 5-3 in the conference and 11-15 overall.

The first contest of the three-game set on Friday night was all Keydets, but early on, Liberty once again jumped out to an early lead 1-0 lead in the first as shortstop Matt Williams led off the game with a triple and was plated moments later by a single off the bat of Redal.

VMI countered in the bottom half of the first with two runs of their own and by the fourth inning held an 11-1 advantage mostly thanks to four RBIs on a triple and home run off the bat of Alex Haitsuka. The Flames would slowly chip away at the lead throughout the remaining innings, but the VMI offense was too much in game one as the Keydets finished the game with a 13-6 advantage.


Stevan Evans took the loss for Liberty, moving to 4-1, while VMI hurler Travis Smink got the win running his record to 4-2.


The good news for this week is that the three-game losing skid stopped there. In game two of the Flames’ series in Lexington, Liberty sent all nine of their players to the plate in the second inning which resulted in a 4-0 lead thanks to a pair of two-run doubles off the bats of Williams and senior catcher Errol Hollinger.


Liberty added one more run two innings later, but the VMI bats finally came alive in the fourth inning as well, as they pushed across four runs, three of which came off the bat of Haitsuka, who was a force all series long against Liberty. The Flames would not give up the lead in this contest though, as Curran Redal ripped two clutch singles in the sixth and eighth innings to bring home four runs total and give Liberty the nine runs that they needed to pull out the win.
A home run in the bottom of the ninth from first baseman Jordan Ballard cut VMI’s deficit to 9-7, but Flames’ reliever Andrew Wilson shut things down for his first save of the season. Junior starter Shawn Teufel tossed for six frames, picking up the win to move to 4-1 on the season, while VMI right-hander Chris Henderson, fell to 2-3.


The Flames clinched the weekend series against VMI on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon that seemed made for baseball.
VMI scored the first run of the game in the second inning, after Ballard doubled and came around to score on a fielder’s choice and a double play. In the fourth inning, Liberty freshman third baseman Tyler Bream belted a solo-shot to left to tie things back up.


Liberty would tally two more runs in the seventh on two hits as Redal and Doug Bream came around to score on a fielder’s choice and a wild pitch, and put one more run across on an error in the eighth to make it 4-1.
The error would prove costly as VMI would fall just short, scoring two runs in eighth before Carter Browning came in to grab his third save of the season in the ninth. Andrew Wilson picked up the win for the flames, moving to 4-1, while Matt Edwards suffered the loss for the Keydets, falling to 2-2.


Finding themselves back on the winning road, the Liberty Flames now stand at 21-8 on the season and 9-2 in the Big South Conference, good for first place. Liberty will close out their road trip this week with games on Tuesday and Wednesday at William & Mary and George Mason, respectively. The Flames then return home to host a series against UNC-Asheville this coming weekend.

Contact Axel Cerny at
axelcerny@gmail.com. 


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