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No. 1 Seed Liberty Edged by No. 2 Seed Winthrop, 6-5
The No. 2 seed Winthrop Eagles rallied for four runs in the eighth inning, en route to a 6-5 victory over the No. 1 seed Liberty Flames in Game 12 of the Big South Baseball Championship, Saturday afternoon at the Winthrop Ballpark.
Right fielder Will Shepherd had two hits, including his first home run of the year in the fourth inning and designated hitter Andrew Yacyk collected two hits and his fourth home run of the season in the fifth inning for the Flames.
Liberty had built a 5-2 advantage through seven innings, before the Eagles, the Big South Baseball Championship host, erased the deficit in the eighth.
With the loss, Liberty is eliminated from the Big South Baseball Championship and drops to 41-16 on the season. Winthrop moves to 27-32 overall and advances to tomorrow's title game against the winner of No. 3 seed Campbell and No. 4 seed High Point, which will be played later tonight.
Winthrop, the visitor on the scoreboard due to its lower seed, opened the contest with a run. Left fielder Tyler Asbill led off the game with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt on second baseman Leighton Daniels. Two batters later, Asbill, who had moved to third on a wild pitch, scored on a single by designated hitter Cody Dolan for a 1-0 Eagle edge.
With the top of the fourth, Winthrop extended its advantage without a hit. Three Eagles walked to load the bases with one out. Shortstop Kyle Edwards followed with a run-scoring grounder off the pitcher's mound for a 2-0 lead.
Liberty cut the Winthrop advantage in half in the bottom of the inning with one swing of the bat. Shepherd led off the frame by belting his first home run of the season. The right fielder took the first pitch of the inning and sent it over the left field wall, slicing the Eagle edge to 2-1.
The Flames used the long ball again in the fifth to take an advantage. Shortstop Dalton Britt opened the inning with a single back through the middle of the diamond. Yacyk followed by lining his fourth home run of the year over the left field wall to give Liberty a 3-2 lead.
In the seventh, Liberty stretched its advantage with two more runs. Yacyk led off the inning with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by third baseman Dylan Allen. Two batters later, center fielder Ashton Perritt lined a double into the left field corner, scoring Yacyk with the first run of the inning. After Shepherd walked, Seiz singled to plate Perritt for a 5-2 lead.
The Eagles went back in front with four runs in the eighth. Center fielder T.J. Olesczuk singled and designated hitter Cody Dolan doubled to lead off the frame. Catcher Babe Thomas followed with a run-producing sacrifice fly for the first Winthrop run of the inning. After a single by right fielder John Menken put runners at the corners and a Liberty pitching change, first baseman Clay Altman doubled to score Dolan and trim Liberty's advantage to 5-4.
The Flames then cut down the tying run at home plate for the second out of the inning, as Menken tried to score on a fielder's choice grounder by third baseman Brad Kaczka. Edwards followed with a grounder to shortstop, which was misplayed by Liberty's Britt, allowing the tying run to score. Mike Patrick, who entered the game as a defensive replacement in the seventh inning, was then hit by a pitch to load the bases and second baseman Leighton Daniels was hit by a pitch to force in the go-ahead run and give the Eagles a 6-5 lead.
Liberty moved the tying run into scoring position in the bottom of the ninth. Allen opened the inning with a single. Left fielder Nick Lacik then moved pinch runner Jake Kimble into scoring position at second base with a sacrifice bunt. However, Eagle reliever Jason Driver was able to retire the next two Flames to close out the Winthrop win.
Perritt, the last of four Liberty pitchers in the contest, falls to 1-2 on the year. The reliever gave up one run, unearned on one hit.
Winthrop reliever Travis Shelley moves to 4-1 on the season. He allowed one run on three hits over 1/3 innings. He walked one. Driver recorded his fourth save with two scoreless innings of relief.
Liberty outhit Winthrop, 11-7. Perritt joined Shepherd and Yacyk with two hits in the contests. Dolan had two hits for the Eagles.
The Flames now await the selection of the 2014 NCAA Baseball Regionals field at Noon on Monday on ESPN to see if they will garner one of the 33 at-large bids to a NCAA Regional.