Mar 9, 2010

‘Pitcher’ perfect Flames off to 9-0 start

by Jordan LoSasso

If one of the most uttered phrases among baseball insiders — including coaches, players and sports writers — is true, then Liberty baseball is well on its way to Regionals this year.

The phrase — pitching wins championships — bodes well for the Flames, who are showcasing three dominant, and in many cases untouchable, starting weekend pitchers in Shawn Teufel, Keegan Linza and Steven Evans.

Teufel, Linza and Evans pitched the Flames to the weekend sweep over the Delaware State Hornets, and did not allow a run between them until the fifth inning of Sunday’s game.

Liberty defeated the Hornets 10-1 in the series finale, led by catcher Nathan Thompson’s five RBIs. Evans (3-0) picked up the win for Liberty, going six innings and struck out eight.

This was the third strong outing of the weekend by the Flames starting pitchers.

“They have thrown well. Tuefel, Linza and Evans have given us a chance every game. Obviously, that’s why we are 7-0 (now 9-0). They are veterans, they’ve been out there before and they’re giving us a chance, so we are happy with that,” Liberty Head Coach Jim Toman said after Friday’s win.

Delaware State came to Liberty with a depleted team due to suspensions that dwindled the ball club to only 12 players. Liberty was aware of the Hornets ability to battle through the adversity after they played three scrappy games the previous weekend with the same group, according to Toman.

“They are still going to come out and compete and you have to be ready for everybody. Baseball is a funny game and it can backfire on you real quick. You have to come out strong to any opponent,” Teufel said.

It didn’t take long for the Flames to garner the lead Friday, bashing Delaware State starting pitcher Jordan Elliot for six consecutive hits and five runs in the first inning. The Flames followed the first with another run in the second and two more in the third to take an 8-0 lead, which turned into an 8-1 win.

Teufel (2-0) pitched six shutout innings, striking out eight in the process, making many of the opposing hitters take ugly swings and looking at called third strikes.

“I felt good. I came out, wanted to establish the fastball and get ahead. That was the plan. The first couple innings were a little shaky but I settled in and did good,” Teufel said.

The shaky part, and the subject of Toman’s scrutiny, was Teufel’s three walks and the seven total walks delivered by the Flames pitching staff.

Another topic of Toman’s displeasure was the team’s let up after establishing an 8-0 lead and doing little offensively for the final six innings. Both problems were corrected for Saturday’s 16-0 dismantling over the Delaware State squad.

Liberty jumped out to a 5-0 lead after the first inning, scored one more in the second and third, but this time never let up. The Flames scored a run in all seven innings, before the game was ended with the 10-run mercy rule set in place for the weekend series due to Delaware State’s suspensions.

“Usually the other teams are saving their good guys for us. It’s been a big accomplishment for us to put up all those runs, and I think we have a really talented lineup top to bottom,” center fielder Curran Redal said.

Redal went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run, while third basemen Tyler Bream knocked in four runs, taking advantage of Hornets pitcher Zach Adkins.

“He wasn’t throwing too hard. He was around the plate a lot, throwing a lot of strikes. We were able to stay patient, get our pitch and put the ball in play,” Redal said.

The Hornets squandered an opportunity to remain close in the second inning when they forfeited a chance to score with the bases loaded and no outs. Linza pitched out of the jam by striking out the first batter, then induced an inning ending double play.

“When the bases are loaded we need a strikeout and double play, in that order. If you get the double play first and then the strike out, they score a run. If you strike them out first then the double play you get out of the inning with no runs. That was a big part of the game and it kept them from getting back into it,” Toman said.

Linza, 3-0, recorded the win with six innings pitched, no runs allowed, two strike outs and only one walk.

The Flames 9-0 start ties the 1995 season as the best start in program history. Much of the success can be credited to strong pitching and hitting that can carry the team if one falters.

“That comfort that goes both ways if we’re not hitting, our pitchers are going to hold them and if we’re hitting our pitchers don’t have to be perfect,” Redal said.

Contact Jordan LoSasso at
jlosasso@liberty.edu
 


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