Mar 3, 2009

Men's Baseball

by Axel Cerny

After rattling off three straight wins to capture the Coca-Cola Classic last week, the Flames baseball team took to the road for contests at James Madison and No. 1 ranked North Carolina.

Liberty sent junior right-hander Joe Steinwedell to the mound on Tuesday to battle the James Madison Dukes. The meeting was the first of three contests against the Dukes this season.

Senior designated hitter Cody Brown got things started right away, cracking a single to left field in the top of the first that brought home the leadoff man, freshman Matt Williams. The Dukes would answer in their half of the first, though. After centerfielder Alex Foltz drew a leadoff walk, shortstop David Herbek drove him home with a run-scoring single. Later in the inning, JMU would tally one more run on another single through the right side of the infield by right fielder Matt Browning.

The Dukes tacked on another run in the second inning, after third baseman Kent Burford led off with a single, advanced to third on a stolen base and a ground out, and then was plated on another ground ball out to make it 3-1.

In the third inning, Liberty cut the deficit back to one on an RBI single by left fielder sophomore Jeff Jefferson, who with the hit extended his hit streak through the first five games of the season.

From that point on it was all Dukes, as JMU scored one in the fourth on a homer by left fielder Matt Townsend, two in the sixth on a bloop single off the bat of Herbek and five more in the final three innings, four of those coming in the bottom of the eighth.

Steinwedell took the loss, giving up four runs on five hits through three innings in a game that saw Liberty bring six different arms to the mound. James Madison starter David Edwards grabbed the win, giving up only two runs on five hits over six innings. With the loss, the Flames snapped their three game winning streak and moved to 3-2 on the season.

As the old baseball adage says, the best part about baseball is you play every day, but the worst part about baseball is you play every day. For the Flames, that was a good thing as they put JMU in the past and headed to Chapel Hill, N.C., on Wednesday to take on the No. 1 ranked UNC Tar Heels.

In the first meeting between the two squads since 2003, the Tar Heels jumped out to an early lead in the bottom of the first. A triple off the right-center field wall by first baseman Dustin Ackley knocked in second baseman Levi Michael. Moments later, third baseman Kyle Seager sent Ackley home on an RBI groundout making it 2-0 UNC.
In the bottom of the third, the Tar Heels added to their lead with four more runs on a two-run double by right fielder Garrett Gore, followed by a two-run homer by catcher Mark Fleury, his first round-tripper of the year.

With the odds stacked against them, Liberty did not give up, battling back in the bottom of the fourth to plate five runs against the highest ranked team in the nation. Catcher Errol Hollinger started the two-out rally with a walk and came home on the next at bat as third baseman Tyler Bream smashed his first collegiate home run over the right field fence to put the Flames on the board.

The inning continued with a walk issued to freshman first baseman Trey Wimmer, who then advanced to third on a double into the left field gap off the bat of shortstop Matt Williams. Flames center fielder Curran Redal kept things alive with a base-clearing triple to right center field, chasing UNC starter Bryant Gaines from the ball game. Liberty picked up one more run on an infield single off the bat of right fielder Tim Rotola to make it 6-5, before Tar Heel reliever Logan Munson picked up the third out.

However, UNC countered in the bottom of the inning putting across two more runs of their own on a double from Seager and a single from right fielder Garrett Gore.

The Tar Heels would pick up one more in the bottom of the seventh to make it 9-5, which would end up the final score. The Flames made it interesting, but in the end Gore and Seager’s two hits and three RBI’s apiece was too much for the Liberty club to come back from.

Liberty’s 2009 home opening series against the Manhattan Jaspers over the weekend was cancelled due to inclement weather. The Flames will open up the season at home on Wednesday, Mar. 4 at 3 p.m. against George Mason to try and bring their record back over .500.

Contact Axel Cerny
at axelcerny@gmail.com.

 


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