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Liberty Travels to Gardner-Webb for Big South Series
The Liberty Flames (29-19, 15-6 Big South) will look to extend their seven-game winning streak this weekend, when they travel to Boilings Springs, N.C., for a three-game Big South series with the Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs (28-17-1, 12-9 Big South), Friday-Sunday at John Henry Moss Stadium. Liberty's win streak is its longest of the year.
First pitch for the series opener on Friday is scheduled for 6 p.m. Both Saturday and Sunday's contest are slated for 2 p.m. starts.
Last Time Out
Liberty took both games of a doubleheader, 3-0 and 15-3, Saturday to complete a sweep of a Big South three-game series with UNC Asheville at Worthington Stadium.
In game one, Steven Evans pitched the first complete-game shutout of his career. The left-hander scattered four hits and struck out eight batters in the contest. Center fielder Ian Parmley went 3-for-3 with two doubles, driving in a run and scoring a run.
In game two, right fielder Michael Robertson went 5-for-5 with three doubles and first baseman Austin Taylor had three hits, including a home run, as the Liberty Flames defeated the UNC Asheville Bulldogs, 15-3.
Robertson had five hits in a contest for the first time in his career at Liberty. The right fielder scored three times and also drove in two runs.
Taylor plated three runs with his three hits and also scored three times in the game. His two-out solo home run in the fourth inning tied him with shortstop Matt Williams for the team lead with six roundtrippers.
Liberty returns home for the final four games of the 2011 regular season. Tuesday, the Flames will host the VCU Rams in a non-conference contest scheduled for 3 p.m., before hosting the Radford Highlanders in a three-game Big South series, starting Thursday night at 7 p.m.
Following the Flames
Sunday's game may be heard LIVE on 90.9 FM "The Light" radio or online at LibertyFlames.com. Nick Pierce will handle play-by-play duties for the broadcast.
In addition, all three contests will be video streamed LIVE. The feed will be available for a nominal fee on the Big South Network. The video stream will also be available on the World Wide Web at LibertyFlames.com.
Longest Win Streak of Season
The Flames enter Friday's contest at Gardner-Webb with a seven-game winning streak, their longest such streak of the season. With wins on Friday and Saturday, Liberty would tie the school record for consecutive wins at the NCAA Division I level with nine. The mark has been reached six times, including each of the last three seasons (2008-10).
The 1976 Liberty squad, under the guidance of head coach Al Worthington, holds the program record of 15 straight wins.
30 Wins on the Horizon
With 29 wins, Liberty is one game shy of recording 30 wins in a season for the seventh consecutive season, and each of its four years under head coach Jim Toman. It would be the first time in the 38-year history of the program, the Flames have won 30 or more games seven-straight years.
Last season, the Flames posted a school-record 42-19 mark to record its sixth-straight season of 30 wins or more. It was the first time Liberty had accomplished the six-year feat. The 42 victories eclipsed the previous school standard of 40 set by the 1983 Liberty team. It was the second time in the program's history a team posted 40 or more wins in a year.
Before this current streak started, the Liberty baseball program had never won 30 or more games for four consecutive years. Previously, the Flames had posted 30 or more victories for three consecutive seasons from 2000-02.
Moving Into May
Liberty is unbeaten in the month of May, posting a 5-0 mark. The Flames will complete their regular-season schedule during the month with 12 scheduled games. Nine of the 12 are Big South Conference contests.
Liberty went 12-7 in May, with a 6-5 record in Big South play in 2010. The Flames reached the Big South Baseball Championship title game for the third consecutive year.
Liberty is 165-126-3 (.566) all-time, including Big South Championship appearances and three NCAA Regional appearances, during May. Liberty has gone 121-93-3 (.565) in regular-season games during the month.
The Flames are 12-14 away from home this season. Liberty is 10-14 in road contests and 2-0 in neutral site games. Liberty is slated to play 29 regular-season contests away from home. The Flames will square off with 27 of their opponents on their home field this season and already have met two teams, Rutgers and Monmouth, on a neutral field during the Keith LeClair Classic in Greenville, N.C., March 11-13.
The Flames went 21-10 in road contests in 2010. Liberty posted the 10th-best road mark in the nation during the year. The Flames went 18-8 in road games and 3-2 in neutral site contests during the year.
Burning Up the Base Paths
The Flames enter the weekend with 99 stolen bases, the most by a Liberty team since 2006, when the Flames stole 104 bases in 60 games. Liberty's 99 stolen bases leads the Big South Conference in the category. The Flames were ranked sixth in the nation in the latest NCAA Division I statistical report, for games played through May 1.
Liberty has taken advantage of its team speed, nearly doubling its stolen base total from a year ago. The Flames have stolen 99 bases in 124 attempts this season, compared to 2010, when the Flames swiped 57 stolen bases in 80 attempts during the entire year.
Leading the way for the Flames is center fielder Ian Parmley with 23 stolen bases. The Liberty outfielder is third in the Big South and 29th nationally in the category. Parmley's 23 steals are the most by a Liberty player since 2006, when third baseman Chad Miller had 24. In addition, with one more stolen base, the junior will tie Miller and Tony Beasley (1989) for 10th on the program's single season list. Gary Wagner holds the school record with 46 stolen bases in 1983.
The Flames' stolen base totals are definitely a stark contrast from last season. Not only has Liberty surpassed last year's season total, but individually four Flames have more steals than outfielder Curran Redal, who led the 2010 team with a season total of 13 stolen bases. Joining Parmley is catcher Casey Rasmus, who is 17-for-18 in steal attempts this season despite playing in 36 games. Rasmus is tied for fourth in the conference in the category. Shortstop Matt Williams and outfielder Michael Robertson have also reached double-digit thefts, each having swiped 14 bases.
Weekend Trio Getting It Done
Entering this weekend, Liberty pitchers John Niggli, Steven Evans and Keegan Linza have established themselves as a trio to reckon with. The three weekend starters for the Flames have combined to post a 17-6 record with a 2.75 ERA over 229 2/3 innings in 33 starts, so far this season. They have also combined for seven complete games, with Linza going the full nine innings four times this year.
Linza is among the Big South leaders in several categories. The senior right-hander leads the conference with eight wins and 85 2/3 innings pitched. He is fourth in the league with a 2.31 ERA.
Evans and Niggli also have their names on several of the Big South lists. Niggli is sixth in opponent batting average (.235) and eighth in ERA (2.97). Evans is third in strikeouts (67) and third in innings pitched (79 1/3). He also ranks fifth in the Big South in opponent batting average (.229).
Baker Has Been Big
In his first season in a Liberty uniform, pitcher Garrett Baker has established himself as the workhorse of the Flames' relief corps.
The junior left-hander has made a team-leading 19 appearances, posting a 6-3 record with two saves and a 3.42 ERA in 47 1/3 innings. Of his 19 appearances, three have been starts. He is currently tied for fifth in the Big South Conference in wins.
In addition, Baker has struck out 32 and walked only four batters. He leads the conference with 0.76 walks allowed per nine innings and is ninth nationally.
Over the last three conference weekends, Baker has been the first pitcher summoned from the Liberty bullpen in five of the games, recording three wins and two saves with a 0.73 ERA in 12 1/3 innings. He has struck out eight batters and held opponents to a .125 batting average during the stretch. Entering each game with runners on base, the left-hander only allowed the opposition to score once. During the span, three of 10 inherited runners have scored.
For the year, Baker has allowed only five of 20 inherited runners to score.
Williams Moves Up on Career 2Bs List
Shortstop Matt Williams continues to climb the school's Top 10 career doubles list. With 15 doubles on the year, Williams now has 49 two-base hits in his career, tying former Liberty standout Jason Benham (1995-98) for sixth place on the all-time list.
Former Liberty outfielder Phillip Laurent (2003-06) holds the school career record for two-base hits with 68. He also set the single-season record with 27 in 2006.
Williams' Liberty teammate Tyler Bream has also moved into the Top 10 career doubles list this season. With 45 two-base hits, the Flames third baseman ranks 10th on the school's career list.
Evans Continues to Climb Up Career Lists
Liberty senior Steven Evans pitched the first complete-game shutout of his career in a 3-0 victory over UNC Asheville in the first game of a doubleheader, this past Saturday. The win was the 24th of his career, tying him for second on Liberty's all-time victory list with Tim Harrell (1995-98) and David Harris (1979-83). Former Flames standout Lee Guetterman (1978-81) is the program's career leader with 29 career wins.
In addition, with nine innings of work, Evans moved into fourth all-time at Liberty with 301 1/3 innings pitched. The left-hander passes Tim Harrell on the program's innings pitched list. Harrell pitched 300 innings for the Flames from 1995-98. Guetterman also heads up that list with 334 2/3 innings pitched during his time at Liberty.
Earlier this season, Evans moved into second on the program's all-time strikeout ledger. Currently, the left-hander has 252 career strikeouts. Only Mike Brown (1994-97), Liberty's career strikeout leader with 287, has compiled more. Evans is currently third in the Big South with 67 strikeouts this season.
A fixture of the Flames' pitching staff over the past four years, Evans has a 24-10 record, four saves and a 3.49 ERA during his career. The left-hander has walked 95 batters for a 2.65 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio during his career.