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Liberty Rolls Past UNC Asheville, 5-1, in Big South Opener
Liberty improves its record to 13-7 overall and begins conference play at 1-0. UNC Asheville drops to 5-15 on the season and 0-1 in the Big South. The win also snaps a three-game losing skid for the Flames.
After a scoreless first three innings, Liberty plated two runs in the home half of the fourth frame to take a 2-0 lead it never relinquished. Derek Bennion (Sr., CF, Snohomish, Wash.) singled to left field to lead off the Flames' fourth and scored as the next batter, Tim Nanry (Sr., LF, Rochester, N.Y.) ripped a double into the right center field gap. Nanry advanced to third on a ground out by Cody Brown (R-So., 1B, Boca Raton, Fla.) and plated the second Liberty run of the day on a RBI ground out by Errol Hollinger (So., C, Upland, Calif.).
The Flames extended their lead the next inning. Phil John (Sr., RF, Linwood, N.J.) reached on a single with one out and later, with two outs, stole second base. Bennion followed with a single to right field to bring home John, upping the Liberty advantage to 3-0. Nanry then hit his second double of the afternoon to bring Bennion home all the way from first and make it 4-0, Flames.
The 4-0 cushion was all Solbach (R-Jr., Woodbridge, Va.), the Liberty starter, needed on the day. The right-hander won his fourth-straight decision to run his mark to 4-1 on the year. Solbach allowed one run, while scattering five hits over 7 2/3 innings. He struck out six and walked two.
Solbach did not allow a runner past first base until the sixth inning when UNC Asheville broke through for its lone run of the game. With one out, third baseman Steve Burnich singled to right and advance to third on a single by center fielder Kevin Mattison. Burnich then scored on a fielder's choice ground out by Matt Henson.
Liberty tacked on an insurance run in the seventh. Aaron Grijalva singled with one out and later swiped second base with two outs. Nanry then drove in his third run of the day with a single to give the Flames a 5-1 advantage.
The Bulldogs threatened in the eighth. With one out, Kyle Smith walked. After Solbach struck out the next batter, Burnich doubled to put UNC Asheville runners at second and third base. Reliever Tim John (Sr., RHP, Linwood, N.J.) then entered for Liberty and got pinch hitter Brett Robinson to pop out to the shortstop, ending the frame.
John pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his second save of the season. Bulldog starter Alan DeRatt falls to 1-2 on the year with the loss. DeRatt gave up four runs on seven hits over six innings, striking out six Flames and walking one.
Besides Nanry, Liberty also got multiple-hit games from Phil John and Bennion, who each had two hits in the contest. Burnich and Henson had two hits apiece for UNC Asheville.
The two teams meet again tomorrow in the middle game of the three-game series at Worthington Stadium. Game time is scheduled for 1 p.m.