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Flames Shut Out Spiders to Open Season, 12-0
Michael Robertson drove in three runs with three hits and John Niggli pitched six scoreless innings, as the Liberty Flames defeated the Richmond Spiders, 12-0, Friday afternoon at The Citadel Challenge at Riley Park. The contest was the season opener for both teams.
Robertson, who was Liberty's opening day right fielder for the third straight year, was 3-for-4 with three RBI, three runs scored, a double and a stolen base. Niggli did not allow a run during six innings of work, coming out of the contest with two men on in the seventh. The right hander scattered four hits, striking out four and walking two batters to earn the victory.
Liberty moves to 1-0 on the year and 25-12 in season openers since 1976. Richmond drops to 0-1.
Liberty, the visitors on the scoreboard, jumped out to lead during its first at bat of 2012. The Flames had the their first five batters reach safely and plated four runs in the top of the first inning, before the first out of the frame was recorded. Left fielder Ian Parmley reached on a bunt single and center fielder Andy Smith walked to lead off the contest. Robertson followed by lining a double into the right field corner, scoring Parmley.
Catcher Danny Grauer, the next batter, ripped a RBI single past diving Richmond shortstop Mike Small into left field for Liberty's second run. Designated hitter Tyler Cox then ripped the Flames' second double of the frame, a run-scoring liner to right center field to make it, 3-0. A RBI ground out by second baseman Billy Aanderud brought home Grauer for a 4-0 advantage.
The Flames added a run in the second inning. Shortstop Zack Haley and Parmley opened the frame with back-to-back singles and moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by Smith. The next batter, Robertson, punched a RBI single to left field to make it, 5-0, Liberty.
The next four complete frames went by quietly until the top of the seventh when the Flames upped their lead with three runs off two Spider relievers. Parmley walked and moved all the way to third base on a throwing error on a pickoff attempt by reliever Joey Vecchione. After Smith was hit by a pitch, Robertson drove in his third run of the game with a single to left field. Grauer followed with a run-scoring ground out and Cox singled home Robertson to build an 8-0 Liberty advantage.
Having held Richmond scoreless, scattering three hits over the first six innings, Niggli gave up a leadoff double to catcher Bryan Conway and a walk to second baseman Adam Forrer to begin the bottom seventh inning, prompting a Liberty pitching change.
After pinch hitter Eric Flanagan singled to load the bases against reliever Alex Close, the freshman right-hander battled back to retire the next three Spider hitters to end the threat and keep Richmond off the scoreboard.
The Flames scored four more runs in the top of the eighth. Corner infielder Trey Wimmer, who reached on a dropped fly ball by right fielder Phil Ruzbarsky, tallied the first run of the frame on a wild pitch. Later in the inning, Smith drove in a run with a single and Grauer pushed a run across with a ground out. Smith scored on a wild pitch for the final run of frame, making it the final score of 12-0.
In the bottom of the inning, Richmond had its first three batters of the frame reach to load the bases. However, the freshman reliever Jared Lyons was able to keep the Spiders scoreless by inducing an inning-ending double play.
The five Liberty pitchers held the Spiders to six hits and stranded 10 Richmond runners.
Spider starter Bret Williams falls to 0-1, allowing five runs on nine hits over six innings. He struck out four batters and walked one.
Liberty had 14 hits in the game. Aanderud joined Robertson with three hits in the contest. Grauer drove in three runs in his first contest in a Flames uniform.
Conway had two hits to lead Richmond.
Liberty will play Towson in two games tomorrow in The Citadel Challenge. The Flames and Tigers will square off at 10 a.m. and later in the day at 4 p.m.