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Three-Run Eighth Pushes No. 30 Liberty Past UNC Asheville, 7-4
With the score tied 4-4, the No. 30 Liberty Flames scored three times in the bottom of the eighth on their way to a 7-4 win over the UNC Asheville Bulldogs, Friday night at the Liberty Baseball Stadium.
After reliever Matt Marsh worked out of a one-out base-loaded jam in the top of the eighth, the Flames, who had been held to four hits through the first seven innings, used five hits and plated three runs to take a 7-4 advantage.
Second baseman Ryan Seiz led off the inning by lining a triple into the left field corner off the Bulldogs' starting pitcher Dean Roland. After a pitching change, designated hitter Becker Sankey singled to give Liberty a 5-4 edge. First baseman Alex Close then doubled and later scored on a single by Nick Lacik, who entered as a defensive replacement in left field in the top of the frame. Center fielder Ashton Perritt followed with an RBI single to put the Flames in front, 7-4.
In the ninth, Perritt took over on the mound and retired the Bulldogs in order to seal the win and collect his 10th save of the season, tying a career high. The right-hander posted 10 saves last season, the second most in program history.
Liberty moves to 17-1 in Big South Conference action and 33-10 overall. The Flames have won 15 consecutive Big South games and are 27-3 over their last 30 contests. UNC Asheville drops to 4-14 in conference play and 12-30 overall.
The visiting Bulldogs jumped on the scoreboard first, plating two runs on second baseman Kyle Towles' first home run of the season. With two outs in the second inning, designated hitter Eli Miller singled and was aboard when Towles lined a 0-1 pitch into the left field bullpen for a 2-0 advantage.
Liberty struck for three runs in the fourth for a 3-2 lead. Right fielder Will Shepherd opened the home half of the inning with a single and advanced to second on a groundout by third baseman Jake Kimble. After Seiz walked and after the second out of the inning was recorded, Close reached on an infield single to load the bases. Catcher Danny Grauer was then hit by a pitch to force in the Flames' first run of the contest. Britt followed with a single back through the middle, scoring Seiz and Close for a 3-2 advantage.
Both teams plated a run in the fifth. In the top of the inning, Asheville scored an unearned run on a single by right fielder Phillip Treadway to briefly tie the game at 3-3. Liberty went back in front in the bottom of the inning, when Perritt was hit by a pitch and later came home on a squeeze bunt by Kimble for a 4-3 edge.
Asheville tied the contest in the top of the eighth. With bases loaded and one out, a wild pitch by Marsh allowed a run to score, tying the game at 4-4.
Liberty starting pitcher Trey Lambert dueled Roland all night, but did not figure in the decision for the first time this season. The right-hander allowed four runs on seven hits over seven-plus innings. He struck out six and walked two batters. The senior had entered the contest having won nine straight outings.
Marsh took over in the eighth and pitched a scoreless inning to run his record to 2-0 on the season. He struck out two and walked two, including an intentional walk.
Roland falls to 2-4 on the year. He pitched seven-plus innings, giving up five runs on five hits. The first of three Bulldogs to pitch in the contest, the right-hander struck out nine and walked two batters.
Liberty collected nine hits in the contest. Close and Perritt each had two hits for the Flames. Asheville finished with seven hits in the game. Towles had two hits for the Bulldogs.
Liberty and UNC Asheville will meet again in the middle game of their three-game series, tomorrow afternoon at Liberty Baseball Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m.