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Liberty Falls at Virginia Tech
No. 24 Virginia Tech staked itself to an early lead in the game's opening inning and never looked back, en route to a 16-6 win over the Liberty Flames, Tuesday evening in a non-conference contest at a windy English Field.
The contest was played in a steady 20-mph wind, which gusted up to 30 mph at times.
Liberty drops to 14-7 overall on the year. Virginia Tech, which was ranked as high as 24th by Baseball America this week, moves to 17-5.
The host Hokies jumped out to an early advantage in the bottom of the first inning. Shortstop Alex Perez walked to open the frame and scored on the first home run of the season by right fielder Kyle Wernicki for a quick 2-0 edge. Third baseman Chad Pinder and left fielder Tyler Horan then hit back-to-back doubles for another run, upping the lead to 3-0. Catcher Mark Zagunis followed with a run-scoring triple to make it, 4-0. Two batters later, second baseman Brendon Hayden lifted a sacrifice fly to put Virginia Tech in front, 5-0.
Liberty plated two runs in the top of the third. Shortstop Dalton Britt led off the inning with a double and moved to third on a single by third baseman Dalton Sype. Two batters later, second baseman Bryan Aanderud pushed across the Flames' first run of the contest with a sacrifice fly to cut Virginia Tech's lead to 5-1. Center fielder Ryan Cordell followed with a two-out single to bring home Sype and trim Liberty's deficit on the scoreboard to 5-2.
In the bottom of the inning, the Hokies countered with a run. Zagunis opened the frame with his third home run of the season for a 6-2 host lead.
Virginia Tech tacked on seven runs in the fourth. First baseman Gary Schneider singled to begin the inning and ended up scoring on a fielding error by the Flames' Britt on a grounder by Perez. The Hokies went on to load the bases with no outs and added runs on a ground out by Horan and sacrifice fly by Zagunis. Center fielder Andrew Rash followed with a wind-aided home run, his third of the year, pushing the Hokie lead to 11-2. Two batters later, pitcher Sean Keselica hit his third home run of the year to make it, 13-2.
Liberty strung together three two-out singles to push across a run in the fifth. Aanderud started the string and moved to second on a base hit by Cordell. Wimmer then dumped a single into right field to score Aanderud.
In the bottom of the inning, a two-run double by Rash and an infield single by Hayden plated three more Virginia Tech runs.
Liberty added single runs in the sixth and the seventh. Pinch hitter Ashton Perritt singled to lead off the sixth inning and scored on a double by Jake Kimble. Cordell hit his third home run of the year over the left field wall in the seventh.
Liberty pushed a run across in the ninth on a throwing error after a single by Kimble for the final score of 16-6.
Flames starter Blake Fulghum falls to 1-1 on the season. The left-hander allowed five runs on four hits without recording an out in the contest.
Hokie starter Keselica moves to 2-0 on the year. He gave up four runs on eight hits over six innings. He did not strike out a batter and walked two.
Liberty collected 13 hits in the contest. Virginia Tech had 15 hits. Cordell recorded three hits to pace the Flames. Pinder had three hits to lead the Hokies.
Liberty returns to Big South Conference play with a three-game series at High Point. The series between the Flames and Panthers gets under way, Friday at 6 p.m. at Willard Stadium.