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Libery Defeats Mercer, 5-4
The Liberty Flames broke a tie contest with a run in the seventh inning, and reliever Josh Richardson shutdown the Mercer bats the rest of the way, defeating the Bears, 5-4, Sunday afternoon at Claude Smith Field.
With a win in the series finale, the Flames move to 1-3 on the season. Mercer drops to 3-1.
Mercer pushed across two run in the first inning to take an early lead. The Bears got on the scoreboard quickly, as center fielder Billy Burns and shortstop Evan Boyd opened the frame with back-to-back doubles to plate the first run of the contest. After a ground out moved Boyd to third base, the shortstop scored on a ground out to second base by right fielder Thomas Carroll for a 2-0 advantage.
After leaving runners in scoring position in the second and third innings, Liberty struck from three two-out runs in the fourth to take a 3-2 lead. Right fielder Michael Robertson got things started in the frame with a one-out single and quickly stole second base. Two batters later, first baseman Dalton Sype bounced a two-out single through the left side of the infield to score Robertson with the Flames' first run of game, slicing the Bear advantage to 2-1.
Center fielder Justin Thompson followed with a double to the right field warning track, allowing Sype to come around to tie the contest at 2-2, with a slide that avoided Mercer catcher Travis Benn's tag. The next batter, shortstop Matt Williams, ripped a single into left field to bring home Thompson to give Liberty its first lead of the contest.
The Flames extended their advantage in the top of the sixth inning, scoring another run with two outs. With Sype aboard after a single, Williams dropped a two-out single into center field to keep the frame alive and put Liberty runners at the corners. Second baseman Zack Haley followed with double into right-field corner to cash in Sype, upping the Flame advantage in the contest to 4-2.
Mercer knotted the game in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Boyd doubled to the center field wall, the first Bear hit off Liberty starter Keegan Linza since the first inning. Third baseman Jacob Tanis followed with his second home run of the year, tying the game at 4-4.
In the top of the seventh, the Flames used a Mercer miscue to go back on top, 5-4. Catcher Casey Rasmus opened the frame with a single to left field and moved to second base two batters later, when designated hitter Justin Sizemore drew a walk. After a pitching change by the Bears, Rasmus stole third base and scored the go ahead run with two outs, when reliever David Teasley's throw on a pick-off attempt hit pinch runner Tony McClendon in the helmet and bounce away from the first baseman down the right field line.
Liberty reliever Richardson then took over, being summoned from the bullpen with a runner on second and one out in the seventh. After stranding that Bear runner, the sophomore stranded a Mercer runner at second base in the eighth inning and pitched a perfect ninth to seal the 5-4 win.
Linza pitched the first 5 1/3 innings, but did not figure in the decision. The senior gave up four runs on four hits, striking out five and walking two. Reliever Garrett Baker followed with a scoreless inning of relief, allowing one hit, to run his record to 1-0 on the year. Richardson closed out the game, giving up one hit and striking out two batters over a scoreless 2 2/3 innings to record his first save of the year.
Reliever David Randall, the third of four Mercer pitchers in the contest takes the loss to fall to 0-1. He allowed one run on one hit and walked one over 2/3 innings.
Haley, Sype and Williams each had a pair of hits for the Flames, who had 10 total hits in the game. Boyd had two for the Bears, who had six hits in the contest.
Liberty travels to Jacksonville, Fla., next weekend for a four-game series at North Florida. The series opens Friday. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.