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Liberty Off to Best Start in Program History with Game One Win
Andy Smith's home run broke a 3-3 tie in the sixth inning for Liberty, propelling the Flames to a 7-4 win over the St. John's Red Storm in game one of a doubleheader, Saturday. With the victory, Liberty ran its record to 15-1 to post the best start to a season in program history.
After the Red Storm had tied the game with two runs in the top of the inning, Smith lined a two-out, solo home run over the right field wall to give the Flames a 4-3 lead, they never relinquished. The round tripper was the junior's second in two games. He also scored three times in the contest.
Liberty's 15-1 record surpasses the 1995 Flames, who posted a 14-2 record through 16 games to open their season. Liberty has won eight consecutive games, their longest winning streak of the year. The Flames began 2012 with a seven-game winning streak. St. John's falls to 4-8.
Liberty, which is 12-0 when scoring first this season, jumped out to a 3-0 advantage in the third inning. Shortstop Zack Haley doubled and left fielder Ian Parmley walked to open the frame. After Smith reached safely on a fielder's choice ground ball, right fielder Michael Robertson singled with the bases loaded to give the Flames a 1-0 edge. Host Liberty added two more runs, when Red Storm shortstop Matt Wessinger's errant throw went into the visitors' dugout on a grounder by second baseman Bryan Aanderud.
In the fourth, St. John's plated its first run of the contest. Wessinger was hit by a pitch and scored on a double by left fielder Jeremy Baltz. The run ended Liberty starter Patrick Eckelbarger's consecutive scoreless inning streak at 19.
The Red Storm tied the contest at 3-3 in the top of the sixth inning. St. John's began the frame by having its first three hitters reach to load the bases. Baltz followed with a single, cutting the Liberty advantage to 3-2. After a pitching change, reliever Patrick Bankemper struck out the next two batters, but third baseman Zach Lauricella tied the game with a two-out infield single.
In the bottom of the inning, Smith hit his third home run of the year, putting Liberty back in front, 4-3.
The Flames benefitted from three errors in the bottom of the eighth inning to extend their lead to 7-3. With two outs, Haley scored on a throwing error by Red Storm shortstop Wessinger and more runs scored on an error by St. John's second baseman Anthony Iacomini with the bases loaded.
In the top of the ninth, the Red Storm rallied. After the first two hitters reached to lead off the inning, right fielder Jimmy Brennan brought home a run with a RBI single. Right-hander Trey Lambert entered for Liberty and ended the threat by inducing a game-ending double play to seal the 7-4 win.
Bankemper records his first victory at Liberty with three innings of relief. The right-hander gave up one run on five hits, striking out five batters and walking one. Lambert earned his first save in a Liberty uniform by recording the game's final three outs.
St. John's starter Sean Hagen drops to 1-1. The left-hander allowed four runs on seven hits over six innings. He struck out three batters and walked two.
Liberty collected eight hits in the contest, with Smith having two. Baltz had three of St. John's three hits in the game.
St. John's left eight men on base and made six errors, while Liberty left eight men on base and did not commit a miscue.