Mar 3, 2009

Softball: Lady Flames claim Seahawk Classic

by Jonathon Thompson

After suffering another tough loss earlier in the week, the Lady Flames softball team found a way to win, cruising to three straight victories en route to claiming their second Seahawk Classic in four years.

The week started off slow for the Lady Flames, as they suffered another tough loss on Tuesday at the hands of the Lady Vols of Tennessee. Tennessee scored early and often, taking a 6-0 lead and chasing senior starting pitcher Sarah Ellis after only two innings.

Two home runs by Tennessee would give them an 11-0 lead. Liberty’s lone run on the night came via a single by sophomore second baseman Cassie Hendrix, a sacrifice bunt, and an RBI single by sophomore centerfielder Jenna Eatmon.

The loss brought Liberty’s record to 0-6 on the season, with four out of the first six losses coming against top-25 teams.

“We are certainly concerned about whether it will affect their confidence,” said Coach Paul Wetmore, referring to the lack of production versus tough competition. “At this point we don’t think it will.”
Wetmore also said that some changes could be expected in the Liberty lineup before the Seahawk Classic in Wilmington, N.C.

Those changes seemed to provide a spark for the Lady Flames, who would pick up their first three wins of the season this weekend at the Seahawk Classic.

Due to inclement weather reports, Liberty’s schedule was altered from a pair of games on both Saturday and Sunday to a single game on Friday, plus a pair of games on Saturday.

On Friday, the Lady Flames picked up their first win of the season, defeating Delaware State 6-2, the first loss of the season for the Hornets.

Liberty got the scoring started with an RBI single by Eatmon, and then tacked on three runs in the fourth inning, highlighted by a two-run double by junior third-baseman J’nae Jefferson.

Sophomore Tiffani Smith recorded her first win of the season, collecting 10 strikeouts over seven innings, and the Liberty offense mustered a balanced attack, with four players recording at least one RBI.

The Lady Flames continued their winning ways on Saturday, beating UNC Wilmington 4-1 on Saturday. Liberty was the first to score in the top of the third when freshman centerfielder Danielle Howard smacked a single to right field, bringing in Eatmon from third.

Back-to-back doubles in the fourth by freshman right fielder Kaylee West and senior first baseman Beth Bennet gave Liberty a 2-0 lead. The Seahawks cut the deficit to one after an RBI double in their frame of the fourth, but a two-run double by West put the game out of reach for the host Seahawks.

The Lady Flames were paced by West, who went 2-for-3 with two RBI’s and a run scored, while Ellis picked up her first win of the season for Liberty. Smith recorded her first save of the year, as the sophomore pitched 1 2/3 innings and allowed just one hit.

Smith starred again for Liberty in the final game of the tournament, as she would again go the distance as the Lady Flames defeated Delaware State, 2-0. This time, however, Smith picked up the first no-hitter of her career, and the first for a Liberty pitcher since April 2007.

Bennett got the Lady Flames off on the right foot, blasting a solo home run in the top of the first inning. Howard added on an insurance run for Liberty, knocking in sophomore second baseman Cassie Hendrix in the third.

““It is always a bit of relief for a pitcher when your team works hard and produces runs,” Smith said. ““It always feels nice to pitch a shutout for the first time in my career. I just went out on the mound every time and focused on doing my job,” Smith said.

By claiming the Seahawk Classic title, Liberty moved their record to 3-6 on the season.

“Tiffani did a great job under poor conditions. It rained the entire game, which present a difficult time in gripping the ball and hitting your location. What a testament to her determination to work through that and get the team the win,” Wetmore said. “Our team responded really well to the challeneges. Good things are starting to happen.”

The Lady Flames return to the diamond on March 7, when they participate in the Florida State Invitational in Tallahassee, Fla. Liberty’s first game will be against Middle Tennessee State.

Contact Jonathon Thompson at
jmthompson@liberty.edu. 


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