Feb 26, 2008

Flames sweep clearwater international

by Thomas Lourdeau

The Liberty Flames baseball team started the season on the right foot this weekend, tallying three consecutive wins at the Clearwater Invitational. 
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Liberty downed the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the season opener 6-2 thanks to a four-run fourth inning.  Senior Aaron Grijalva reached base to open the frame, coaxing a four-pitch walk.  Two batters later, after a throwing miscue put runners on first and second with no outs, freshman left fielder Doug Bream drew the second walk of the inning, loading the bases.
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Senior David Giammaresi then delivered a two-run double to right center field, putting the Flames up 2-1.  Senior Aaron Phillips chipped in with a sacrifice bunt, and junior Tim Rotola plated a runner off an RBI single, giving the Flames a 4-1 advantage.
Junior Clarence Nicely picked up the win in his Liberty debut, allowing just one run on five hits.  Notre Dame starter David Phelps, however, took the loss in 4 2/3 innings.  He allowed six runs on eight hits.
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The Flames picked up where they left off Saturday in the rain-soaked Jack Russell Stadium.  Rain delays stalled the game for six hours, but the Flames were unphased, riding a Garrett Young double in the Flames’ seventh inning to beat the Albany Great Danes 5-4.
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After Kenneth Negron was hit by a pitch, Young ripped a 3-2, two-out pitch down the left field line, allowing Negron to score the game’s winning run.
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The win comes in the face of an early 3-0 Flames’ deficit.  In their half of the third, Phillips scored after he led off the inning with a double, and Rotola followed with a two-base hit of his own, cutting the lead to two.
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After a six-hour rain delay, play resumed with new Great Dane pitcher Cory walking the first two batters he faced, both of whom moved into scoring position via a double steal, advancing to second and third.  One wild pitch later, the score was 3-2.  Grijalva then drew a walk, and Liberty took a 4-3 lead when senior P.K. Keller bounced a double off the wall.
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After an Albany home run knotted the contest at four runs apiece, the Flames bounced right back in their half of the seventh on Young’s game-winning double.
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In their finale against the Iowa Hawkeyes, it was the pitching that took center stage.  Liberty starter David Stokes picked up the win, allowing one unearned run in 7 1/3 innings of work.
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Liberty needed just three runs of their own to throttle Iowa, which did not have an answer for Stokes.  His command of the strike zone kept Hawkeyes hitters guessing all afternoon.
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For the first time in the weekend, Liberty jumped to an early advantage after junior Earl Hollinger scored off Grijalva’s one-out single.
The Hawkeyes responded after Justin O’Toole reached on an error and then moved his way into scoring position on a wild pitch.  Center fielder Caleb Curry followed with a single, tying the score at one.
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Scoring resumed in the Flames’ fifth inning.  Senior Cody Brown’s single began the frame, and Brown advanced one batter later on a sacrifice bunt.  Phillips then launched a single of his own, giving the Flames a 2-1 lead.
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Things got dicey for the Flames in the eighth inning after Stokes put runners on first and third with only one out.  Sophomore reliever Dane Beakler came in for relief and struck out the first batter he faced.  Base-running miscues then allowed Liberty to get out of the jam unharmed. 
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The Flames take their three-game winning streak into the next test, against Norfolk State on Tuesday, Feb. 26.  The first pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m.

Contact Thomas Lourdeau at tlourdeau@liberty.edu.


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