May 8, 2007

Softball swept by Tech

by Will Luper, Sports Reporter
Last Tuesday, the Liberty University Lady Flames softball team played host to the Hokies of Virginia Tech. Coming in ranked No. 17 in the nation, the Hokies were the heavy favorites as they squared off against the Lady Flames, who sit atop the Big South Conference.

A large crowd, which showed up to take in the sights on the sunny afternoon, was treated to two very close games. The Hokies boast one of the nation’s best hurlers in junior All-American Angela Tincher, who was slated to start the first game of the doubleheader on Tuesday.

Tincher, a typical power pitcher style with electric pitches, owned a 32-5 record going into the game. She also sports a 0.61 ERA and has already recorded 539 strikeouts this season.

The day’s double-header started with a game that would go into extra innings after junior Ashley Williams hit a game-tying, two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning, the only hit off Tincher all day.

Senior Sarah Swor pitched nine innings in her final home game, but unfortunately in the top of the ninth, Tech’s Charisse Mariconda scored from second on a single up the middle from pinch hitter Kelsey Rokey. T

he Lady Flames, who were unable to muster a run to re-tie the game, faced a questionable call made by the umpires that cost them two outs to end the first game by a score of 3-2. Tincher upped her record to 33-5 on the season, pitching nine innings and striking out 22 Lady Flames in a dominating performance.

Swor took the loss, bringing her record to 5-7 on the year. The second game saw senior Terra Lowe start off on the mound. However after three runs off three hits through three innings, head coach Paul Wetmore went to the bullpen and brought in sophomore Sarah Ellis.

The Hokies added another run in the sixth inning on Whitney Davis’ RBI single and another in the seventh on a Stephanie Savre double. Freshman J’nae Jefferson got the Flames on the scoreboard with a home run in the bottom of the seventh, but it was not enough as the Hokies cruised to a 5-1 victory.

Head Coach Paul Wetmore was pleased with his team’s play despite the two losses. “It’s the reason we schedule like this. The great competition will help prepare us for the Big South Championship,” he said.

After dropping the double-header, Liberty made the long journey to Alabama to take on Birmingham-Southern University.

The first game against the Panthers was hardly competitive on the scoreboard as the Lady Flames won 8-0 after just five innings. Lowe picked up the win and moved her conference record to 7-1, (16-8 overall) tying her personal best in a season.

Headlining the offensive attack for the Lady Flames was senior Jessica Moore. She connected in the fifth inning on 1-2 delivery, sending the ball over the left field fence for her league leading 18th homerun of the season. Jefferson also added her sixth homerun of the season in the second inning as the Lady Flames cruised to a five-inning, 8-0 shutout victory. She connected in the fifth inning on 1-2 delivery, sending the ball over the left field fence for her league leading 18th homerun of the season. Jefferson also added her sixth homerun of the season in the second inning as the Lady Flames cruised to a five-inning, 8-0 shutout victory.

The second game of the day was much of the same as the Lady Flames pounded out 12 hits en route to a 7-2 win. In the top of the fifth inning, senior Dawn Jeffs hit a solo home run, her 15th this season, to jumpstart the offense. The home run was also Jeffs’ 87th hit of the season, eclipsing her previous season high of 86.

Liberty added five more runs in the sixth to secure the victory, highlighted by Moore’s 19th home run of the year. Swor held the Panthers to two runs over her six innings of work, allowing only four hits and striking out five en route to her sixth win of the season. Heather Fox hit a home run in the bottom of the sixth for the Panthers.

Saturday’s game saw the Flames’ bats go quiet as Panther pitcher Raquel Sanifel tossed a three-hit shutout in her final career home game. Sanifel’s shutout was threatened in the sixth inning when the Lady Flames loaded the bases with no outs. Sanifel was able to strike out sophomore Beth Bennett, however, and then induced Swor to line into an unassisted double play.

With their two victories this weekend, the Lady Flames end the regular season with a record of 36-24 and 11-4 in Big South Conference play, tying the most conference wins since the 1999 season.

The Lady Flames stellar play this season earns them a first round bye in this weekend’s Big South Conference softball tournament. The Lady Flames will return to action at the Big South Softball Championship in Conway, S.C.

The tournament is slated to begin on Thursday and will conclude on Saturday, the winning team receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA Regionals.

Contact Will Luper at wluper@liberty.edu.
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