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Big Sixth Inning Pushes East Carolina Past Liberty, 11-2
With the loss, Liberty opens the season at 1-2, while the win moves East Carolina to 2-1 on the year.
For the first time on the weekend, East Carolina jumped on the scoreboard first. Center fielder Harrison Eldridge singled to lead off the Pirate half of the first inning. After the next batter struck out, Eldridge swiped second and came around to score on a double hit sharply past the third base bag by first baseman Brandon Henderson to give the Pirates a 1-0 advantage.
Liberty knotted the score at 1-1 in the top of the fifth. Aaron Phillips singled and Tommy Bussey doubled to center field to open the inning. After a nice play by East Carolina starter Dustin Sasser on a ground ball back at the mound by Kenneth Negron for an out, Patrick Gaillard brought home Phillips with a ground out to the shortstop.
In the home half of the sixth, the Pirates erupted with seven two-out runs to go on top, 8-1. With one out, left fielder Ryan Tousley singled to center and broke the tie on a two-out double by designated hitter Jake Dean. The next batter, Jamie Ray, then delivered Mark Letchworth, who came on to pinch run for Dean, with a single to right. After an error by the first baseman kept the frame alive, Eldridge singled home an unearned run to make it, 4-1. Mollenhauer followed with his slam to right field, clearing the bases. It was the shortstop's first career grand slam.
The two teams added runs in the later innings. Garrett Young, who walked and stole second, scored Liberty's second run on a single by Nate Thompson in the eighth. East Carolina plated an additional run in the seventh on a RBI single by pinch hitter Kyle Roller and two in the eighth on a double and an infield single.
Despite taking the loss, Flames' starter David Stokes (0-1) had a solid outing in his Liberty debut as he allowed three runs on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. Sasser (1-0) picked up the win, allowing one run on five hits.
Liberty next travels to Charleston, S.C., for the Citadel Shootout, Friday-Sunday. The Flames will meet the South Carolina Gamecocks, currently ranked #3 nationally, on Friday, at host Citadel's Riley Stadium. Game time is schedule for Noon.