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Liberty Edges VMI On Robertson's Single, 3-2
Locked in a pitcher's duel, Liberty right fielder Michael Robertson beat out a two-out, infield single to score the go-ahead run as the Flames defeated the VMI Keydets, 3-2, Friday night in a Big South contest at Gray-Minor Stadium.
Tied at 2-2, Liberty pushed across a run to break the deadlock in the top of the eighth inning. With one out, catcher Jeff Jefferson reached on a bunt single and second baseman Zach Haley singled, putting Flames on the corners. After Haley moved into scoring position by stealing second base, VMI starter Coby Cowgill was able to get center fielder Ian Parmley to ground out to second base with the infield in to prevent a run. However, Robertson followed by beating out a chopper behind the mound for an infield single, scoring Jefferson for a 3-2 edge.
Reliever Garrett Baker held VMI in check in both the eighth and ninth innings to close out the Liberty victory.
With the win, Liberty moves to 11-5 in Big South action and 21-17 overall. The Flames have won six straight Big South games and six of their last seven overall. VMI drops to 8-8 in the conference and 19-18 overall. The game was underway an hour and 10 minutes later than its scheduled start time due to rain in the Lexington area.
After the Flames were set down in order in the first two innings, Liberty turned its first hit of the contest into the game's first run in the third. First baseman Austin Taylor led off the top half of the third inning by splitting the left-center field gap with a liner for a double. After the Liberty first baseman advanced to third base on a sacrifice bunt by Jefferson, Haley plated Taylor with a squeeze bunt for a 1-0 lead.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, VMI knotted the game at 1-1. Shortstop Sam Roberts opened the frame with a single to center field. Two batters later, designated hitter George Piccirilli lined a double off the center field wall to put two Keydets in scoring position. Catcher Alex Haitsuka followed with a RBI ground out to tie the contest.
VMI took a 2-1 advantage in its next at bat. After the first two batters of the fifth inning were retired, the Keydets loaded the bases. Third baseman Chase Worthington walked and second baseman Justin Hess and Roberts each singled to fill the bases. Left fielder Graham Sullivan then drew a walk to force in a run, putting the Keydets in front.
Liberty answered in the top of the sixth inning, taking advantage of a VMI miscue. Haley led off the frame with a single and moved around to third base when Keydet starter Cowgill's failed pickoff throw was wide of the bag, sailing down the right field line. Parmley brought home Haley with a ground out to first base, evening the score for the second time on the night at 2-2.
VMI opened the bottom of the seventh with a runner in scoring position, but Liberty pitching was able to keep the runner from scoring. Right fielder Jacob Morley lined a double to the bottom of the center field wall leading off the inning. However, Liberty pitcher John Niggli was able to prevent Worthington from laying down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runner, retiring the Keydet with a strikeout. Reliever Garrett Baker was then summoned from the Flames bullpen and got the next two batters to end the inning, stranding the runner on third base.
For the second consecutive start, Niggli had strong outing, but did not figure in the decision.
The junior gave up two runs on seven hits over 6 1/3 innings. He struck out six batters and walked two. Baker followed and moves to 4-2 on the year. The left-hander pitched a scoreless 2 2/3 innings. He struck out three and did not walk any batters.
Cowgill falls to 4-1 on the year. The Keydet right-hander allowed three runs on six hits over eight innings. He struck out eight and did walk a batter. Travis Thomas pitched a scoreless ninth for VMI.
Liberty totaled six hits in the contest. Haley had two hits with a RBI and a run scored for the Flames. VMI had seven hits in the game. Roberts had two hits and scored a run for the Keydets.
Liberty and VMI will meet again tomorrow in a doubleheader tomorrow afternoon at Gray-Minor Stadium. Game one is scheduled to start at 2 p.m.