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Close's Single Provides Liberty with 4-3 Walkoff Win over Army
First baseman Alex Close's single in the 11th inning pushed the Liberty Flames to a 4-3, walkoff win over the Army Black Knights, in the final game of the Liberty Invitational, Sunday afternoon at Liberty Baseball Stadium.
After reliever Ashton Perritt stranded Black Knights at second and third bases in the top of the 11th, the Flames used three consecutive hits in the home half of the contest to capture their ninth consecutive win.
Designated hitter Justin Sizemore singled to left field to open the inning. Catcher Trey Wimmer then moved pinch runner Jake Kimble to third base with a sharply hit single back through the middle of the diamond. Close followed with a single to left field, plating Kimble for the 4-3 victory.
With the win, Liberty has won nine straight contests and runs its record to 9-2 on the year. The Flames nine consecutive victories ties the program's Division I mark. The record has been reached during seven other seasons. The school's all-time record for consecutive wins is 15 set by the 1976 Flames.
Liberty jumped out to an advantage in the bottom of the third inning. Third baseman Dalton Sype walked to open the frame and two batters later, advanced to second when right fielder Nick Paxton was hit by a pitch. Center fielder Ryan Cordell followed with a single up the middle of the diamond to plate Sype for a 1-0 lead.
The Flames added to their advantage with another run in the fifth. Once again, Sype led off the inning, this time with a single. After moving to second on a sacrifice bunt by left fielder Nick Lacik, the Liberty third base advanced to third on ground ball by center fielder Nick Paxton. Cordell then cashed in Sype with a single to extend the Flames' lead to 2-0.
After Liberty pitchers had held opponents without a run over the previous 24 innings, Army pushed two runs across in the sixth inning. Second baseman Justin Reese led off the frame with an infield single and advanced to second base on a walk to right fielder Jon Crucitti. Three batters later, first baseman Patrick Mescher singled home the first Black Knight with two outs, cutting the Flames' lead to 2-1. Reece then scored, as Mescher got caught in a rundown between first and second base trying to steal second base.
Liberty went back in front in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, Lacik and Paxton each singled to put runners at the corners. Paxton then got caught in a rundown between first and second base, allowing Lacik to score for a 3-2 host advantage.
The Black Knights tied the game in the ninth inning. With runners on second and third and down to his last strike, designated hitter Michael Sands punched a single through the right side of the infield to score a run, knotting the game at 3-3.
After a scoreless 10th, Army threatened in the top of the 11th. With two outs, the Black Knights moved runners in scoring position at second and third. However, Perritt was able to strike out pinch hitter Andrew Johnson to end the threat, setting up the Flames in the bottom of the inning.
Perritt, the fifth pitcher in the contest for Liberty, picks up the win to move to 1-0 on the year. He pitched two scoreless innings, allowing one hit, while striking out one and walking two batters.
Despite a strong relief effort, Army reliever Gunnar Carroll falls to 0-1. Carroll allowed two runs on eight hits over five-plus innings. He struck out one batter.
Liberty outhit Army, 12-9, in the contest. Close, Cordell and Wimmer each had two hits for the Flames.
Next, Liberty hosts William & Mary at Liberty Baseball Stadium, Tuesday. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m.