Mar 6, 2007

Baseball rocks the Jaspers back to the island

by Eric Brown, Sports Reporter
The Liberty men’s baseball team continued their success this week, winning three of its games and extending its season record to 9-4 for the season.

The Flames started the week on the road against the Rams of Virginia Commonwealth University.
Liberty struck early in the first inning when senior Phil John scored the first run of the game off a Garret Young double.

In the bottom of the second, Rams infielder Chris Jackson knocked a home run to left center knotting the game at one.

The Flames began to pull away in the third when Young doubled, once again sending John home.
Young later scored due to an error from the VCU shortstop giving the Flames a 3-1 lead.
The Flames came out firing on all cylinders in the sixth, picking up five more runs on five hits.
“Hitting is contagious,” said Young. “Once we started getting some hits and putting up some runs, everybody kind of chipped in a little bit.”

The Rams answered with a run of their own in the sixth. However, it proved to be futile as the Flames cruised to an 8-2 victory and continued their six-game winning streak. Young ended the night going four for five with three RBI and three doubles.

On the defensive side of the ball, Flames starting pitcher, sophomore Tyler Light improved his record to 2-0 for the season, retiring nine of the last 10 VCU batters.

“I think that was probably our most complete game of the year,” said Coach Matt Royer.
“We hit well, we turned three double plays and we pitched very, very well. It was all around a good solid win.”

Liberty returned home on Friday to begin a three-game series with the Manhattan Jaspers at Worthington Stadium.

After three scoreless innings, the Jaspers Eric Nieto plated the first run of the game to give Manhattan a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth.

Liberty then tied the game in the bottom of the inning as junior David Giammaresi singled down the left field line, allowing sophomore Cody Brown to advance home.
The very next inning, Liberty scored four runs due to solid hitting and a wild pitch that allowed Young to slide into home plate.

“Obviously putting up those runs was a big turning point in the game,” said Royer. “Our definition of a big inning is three or more runs and we’ve been able to do that quite a bit in the early going here.”
The Jaspers Mike Garcia scored on a fielders choice, making it a 5-2 ball game in the seventh.
In the eighth, sophomore Errol Hollinger came home on junior Aaron Grijalva’s sacrifice fly to right, making the final score 6-2 in favor of the Flames.

Junior Michael Solbach pitched seven innings, struck out seven batters and extended his record to 2-1 for the season. Senior Patrick Gaillard stepped up big for Liberty, going three for five and scoring one run.

“I had been struggling earlier in the season,” said Gaillard. “I just wanted to go out there and have fun.”

Liberty played its second game of the series on Saturday, this time batting against a professional prospect in Jaspers starting pitcher Jesse Darcy.
Manhattan came out fighting early, plating two runs in the second, followed by a grand slam home run in the third from Nick Derba, which gave the Jaspers an early 6-0 lead.

The Flames kept their composure as they scored two runs of their own off four hits in the bottom of the third.

“Our team didn’t give up,” said Gaillard. “When someone hits a grand slam like that you don’t want to ever get down on yourself and think that we’re never going to be able to get back in the game. That was never a thought that came across our heads at anytime.”

The Jaspers picked up another run in the seventh and two more in the eighth to bring the Flames seven-game win streak to a halt with a 9-2 loss.

Liberty starting pitcher sophomore Dustin Umberger fell to 2-2 for the season after giving up seven runs on nine hits through 6 2/3 innings. Darcy proved to be a thorn in the Flames side, pitching a complete game and striking out four.

“We ran into a good pitcher,” said Royer. “I felt like we still swung the bat pretty well against a good pitcher, and I was happy with that.”

Liberty finished the weekend strong, rounding out the series on Sunday.
Manhattan started to pick up where it left off Saturday, scoring a run in the first inning. However, the Flames responded with two runs of their own in the bottom of the second.

Manhattan’s Kevin Nieto scored a run in the third, tying the game at two a piece. Liberty then regained the lead in the bottom of the inning with a Grijalva single to left, allowing Young to reach home plate.

The Jaspers picked up two runs in the sixth and one in the seventh to take a 5-3 lead.
The Flames fought back courageously in the bottom of the seventh with three runs off three hits to regain control of the game.

In the eighth, Manhattan knotted the game once again, 6-6. Liberty exposed the bullpen in the bottom of the frame, scoring eight runs off six hits.

The highlight of the inning occurred when redshirt freshman Nate Thompson slammed a three-run homer past the scoreboard. The Flames crushed the Jaspers with a 14-6 victory and 2-1 win in the series.

“We continued to hit the ball hard and we were able to find holes,” said Royer. “A lot of guys came up with big hits.”

Light, who stepped in for junior pitcher David Stokes, gave up three runs on seven hits and struck out four batters through 5 1/3 innings.

Junior Ryan Page, who came in for Light in the sixth, struck out five batters, and pitched a perfect ninth. At the plate, Grijalva came up big for the Flames going four for five with five RBI.
“I was just happy I’m finally hitting the ball,” said Grijalva. “Today all my hard work finally paid off.”
The Flames travel to Norfolk, Va., to take on Old Dominion on Tuesday. Game time is at 3 p.m.

Contact Eric Brown at eqbrown@liberty.edu.

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