Apr 4, 2006

Baseball thrashes VMI

by Nick Pierce
After being swept by Winthrop in Rock Hill last weekend, the Flames would be out for some revenge this week.

Following an 11-2 drubbing of the George Mason Patriots on Wednesday, and a weekend sweep of conference foe VMI, only two words come to mind when describing the last week for Liberty’s baseball squad.

Mission Accomplished.

Sunday, Liberty topped the VMI Keydets 9-7 at Al Worthington Stadium, completing the series and season sweep of VMI.

“I told the guys that I thought the key to the whole series was that we answered back. Almost every time I looked up at the board, if they had a big inning, we came right back and scored,” said Liberty Head Coach Matt Royer. “That’s a good sign. It takes away momentum from the other team.”

In a game where good pitching was scarce, Liberty starter Dustin Umberger was still able to garner the first collegiate win of his career.

Umberger, a freshman, pitched a scoreless first inning for the Flames. In the bottom of the frame, his teammates would stake him to a 3-0 advantage. However, VMI would strike back in the top of the second inning with three runs of their own.

The two sides would be tied at four in the bottom of the third inning, when the Flames

put up four more runs and began pulling away for the moment with an 8-4 lead.


Working into the fifth inning Umberger began to struggle, prompting a visit from Flames Pitching Coach Randy Tomlin.

“He told me what I was doing wrong with my mechanics, and we straightened them out,” said Umberger. “Once I fixed that I got everything going to the plate and I threw a lot better.”

Umberger pitched six and one-third innings for Liberty, allowing seven earned runs on five hits. His record improves to 1-1 on the season in now 11 appearances. Despite being a little roughed up in the early innings, Royer was still pleased with Umberger’s overall performance.

 “He ate innings for us, and that’s what we needed, because Ryan Page missed the whole series because of a slight elbow problem,” said Royer. “We’d like to have him in the bullpen so we could throw him more with less innings, but he gave us just what we needed last week and he did it again today.”

Last week Umberger earned a no decision in his first collegiate start against Winthrop. He threw just over five innings in the second game of the series, allowing four earned runs to the defending Big South Champions.

In Sunday’s win, Patrick Gaillard and Chad Miller would lead the Flames offensively. Gaillard, a junior, went 3-5 from the plate, with two runs scored and an RBI. Miller, a senior, was 2-3 with three RBI and a run scored.

On the other side of the fence VMI, after throwing five pitchers in Saturday’s 16-8 loss, used three pitchers in Sunday’s slugfest. Starter Michael Bowman, a freshman, only threw two innings, allowing four runs, three earned, on three hits. Coming into today’s ballgame, Bowman had not pitched in over a month due to health problems with his throwing arm.

“He’s a freshman, and he’s got a great arm,” said VMI Head Coach Marlin Ikenberry. “He just miss located a few pitches.”

Friday, the Flames would knock off VMI in the series opener by a final score of 8-5. In that game, the Flames would also have to come back down 5-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning. Aaron Grijalva led off the inning with a home run, and the Flames scored four runs that inning to take the lead.

Wednesday’s game against George Mason was never really in doubt for the Flames. Liberty took a 1-0 advantage in the bottom of the first inning. In the second inning, the Flames blew the doors off of the Patriots scoring nine runs and send 13 batters to the plate.

Freshman pitcher Tyler Light picked up his first career collegiate win for the Flames, pitching three shutout innings.

Liberty will be back in action Wednesday when the team travels to Williamsburg, Va. for a one-game showdown with William and Mary. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.

 Contact Nick Pierce at npierce@liberty.edu

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