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Three-Run 7th Inning Propels Liberty Past Marshall
Liberty plated three runs in the seventh inning, breaking a 4-4 tie and pushing the Flames past the Marshall Thundering Herd, 8-4, Friday evening in a non-conference contest at Linda K. Epling Stadium.
With the win, Liberty moves to 24-5 on the season and snaps a two-game losing streak. The Flames have not lost a road game this year, running their road record to a nation's best 10-0. Marshall drops to 10-15. The Thundering Herd has lost four consecutive contests.
The visiting Flames used four consecutive hits to take an early advantage in the game's opening inning. Center fielder Andy Smith began the string of hits with a one-out double and scored the game's first run on an opposite-field single by second baseman Bryan Aanderud. After Aanderud advanced to third base on a single by designated hitter Tyler Cox, first baseman Alex Close gave Liberty a 2-0 edge with a run-scoring single.
Thundering Herd starter Aaron Blair retired eight Flames in a row, before Liberty extended its lead in the third. Close led off the inning with a grounder into the hole between the shortstop and third baseman for an infield single. Right fielder Ryan Cordell followed with a liner which hopped the fence for a ground-rule double, upping the Flames lead to 3-0. Later in the frame, third baseman Dalton Sype lifted a sacrifice fly to right field to score Cordell and give Liberty a 4-0 advantage.
In the bottom of the frame, Marshall loaded the bases with one out against Liberty starter John Niggli. However, Niggli was able to retire the next two hitters to end the scoring threat and keep the Thundering Herd scoreless.
After failing to get on the scoreboard in the fourth, Marshall was able to cut the Liberty advantage to one run with three tallies in the fifth. Shortstop Andrew Dundon singled and center fielder Isaac Bellou walked to open the inning. Third baseman Gray Stafford followed with a double to plate both runners, trimming the Flames' lead to 4-2. Later in the frame, first baseman Nathan Gomez singled and scored on a double by designated hitter Alfredo Brito, slicing the Liberty edge to 4-3.
Marshall tied the contest in the sixth. Second baseman Sergio Leon began the inning with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Dundon. Two batters later, Stafford bounced a two-out single through the middle of the diamond, bringing home Leon to knot the game at 4-4.
Liberty went back in front during the seventh. Shortstop Zack Haley was hit by a pitch, starting off the frame and advanced all the way to third base on an errant pickoff throw by Marshall reliever Josh King. The Flames shortstop then beat the throw to plate on a fielder's choice grounder by left fielder Ian Parmley, giving Liberty a 5-4 edge.
After moving to third base on a single by Smith, Parmley came home on a sacrifice fly by Aanderud for a 6-4 advantage. Cox followed by ripping a single through the left side of the infield, cashing in Smith with the third run of the inning and a 7-4 lead.
The Flames added an insurance run in the ninth. With one out and runners on the corners, Close blasted a RBI double off the top of the left field wall, just missing a home run, for what proved to the be the final score of 8-4.
Reliever Jared Lyons, who entered the game in bottom of the eighth, closed out the contest for the Flames with a scoreless ninth inning.
Liberty starter John Niggli did not receive a decision in a contest for the first time this season. The senior had recorded the win in his previous six outings of the season. He gave up three runs on 10 hits, striking out six batters and walking two, before giving way to reliever Patrick Bankemper with a runner on and one out in the fifth inning.
Bankemper moves to 2-0 on the year. The right-hander yielded one run on three hits over 3 1/3 innings of relief, his longest outing of the season. He struck out five batters and walked two.
Lyons earns the first save of his college career. The freshman left-hander pitched a scoreless 1 1/3 innings, allowing one hit. He is one of seven Liberty pitchers who have recorded a save this season.
Marshall starter Blair drops to 1-4 on the year. The right-hander gave up five runs on eight hits, before exiting the game after pitching to one batter in the seventh inning. The first of four pitchers in the game for the Thundering Herd, Blair struck out eight and did not walk a batter.
The Flames collected 11 hits in the game. Close led Liberty with three hits. It is the third three-hit game for the freshman first baseman this season.
Marshall had 14 hits in the contest. Brito paced the Thundering Herd with four hits.
Liberty and Marshall will meet again tomorrow at Epling Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m.