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Flames Take Advantage of Bulldog Miscues as Bats Awaken in 15-5 Victory
The victory in the conference-opening series for both teams moves the Flames to 2-1 in the Big South and 14-8 overall. The Bulldogs drop to 1-2 and 6-16 overall.
Liberty took a 4-2 lead after one inning as both teams took advantage of defensive miscues in the frame. Matt Henson was hit by a pitch by Liberty starter Tyler Light (So., RHP, San Bernardino, Calif.) to open the game for UNC Asheville and moved to second as Steve Burnich's bunt was mishandled by the Flames' pitcher, allowing the Bulldog first baseman to reach. Henson then plated the game's first run as David Williams singled. After the next batter struck out, Burnich scored a two-out run on a single by Rob Vernon for a short-lived, 2-0, Bulldog edge.
The Flames quickly erased the UNC Asheville lead in the bottom of the inning, thanks to the help of three Bulldog errors. Leadoff hitter Kenneth Negron (So., LF, Kingwood, Tex.) walked and advanced to third base on a single by Phil John (Sr., RF, Linwood, N.J.). With runners on the corners and no out, Negron scored Liberty's first run of the contest on Bulldog starter Michael Bogeart's wild pitch. On the play at home plate, John moved to third base as the catcher's attempt to get Negron got away.
The Flames then loaded the bases as the next two batters, Aaron Grijalva (R-Jr., 1B, Redlands, Calif.) and Tim Nanry (Sr., DH, Rochester, N.Y.) walked. Liberty tied the game at 2-2 as John came home on a fielder's choice by Derek Bennion (Sr., CF, Snohomish, Wash.). On the grounder, Nanry was safe at second on a throwing error by the UNC Asheville shortstop. David Giammaresi (R-Jr., 3B, Coral Springs, Fla.) then grounded to shortstop, which the Bulldogs converted into an out at second, but on the attempt at a double play, the second baseman threw high. Grijalva and Nanry both came home on the wild throw, lifting Liberty to a 4-2 lead.
UNC Asheville sliced the Flames' advantage in half with a run in the fourth inning. Henson doubled with one out to score Jon Whited, who had singled, to make it, 4-3 Liberty.
The Flames added to their lead in the sixth. With one out and no one aboard, Aaron Phillips (Jr., SS, Claremore, Okla.) connected for the first home run of his Liberty career, sending a shot over the left field wall to chase Bogaert. Negron then singled off reliever Josh Lett and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Once again, Liberty benefited from a UNC Asheville miscue as the shortstop mishandled John's grounder to put runners at the corners with one out. Grijalva followed by lifting a sacrifice fly to left for a 6-3 lead.
The Bulldogs threatened in the seventh as they loaded the bases with one out. Liberty right-hander Tim John (Sr., RHP, Linwood, N.J.) relieved Light and two pitches later got Vernon to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to squelch the rally.
In the bottom of the inning, the Flames sent 15 batters to the plate, scoring nine runs on seven hits and three more UNC Asheville errors. Tommy Bussey (So., 2B, Boynton Beach, Fla.) started the offensive outburst with a two-run double to the wall in left field as the first three batters of the frame reached safely. After both runners were safe on a bunt attempt by Phillips, Negron singled to bring home Bussey to up the Liberty advantage to 9-3. Another fielding miscue by the Bulldogs allowed the Flames to load the bases with one out and Phillips scored on a sacrifice fly by Nanry. On the play, Negron would also score as the shortstop dropped the relay throw from the outfield.
After Bennion walked, the uprising continued when Giammaresi lined a double into the left center field gap for two more runs. Errol Hollinger (So., C, Upland, Calif.) followed with his second round tripper of the season, a two-run shot off the Big South flag pole in left field, to cap the inning.
Vernon hit a two-run home run in the ninth for UNC Asheville for the final margin of 15-5. It was the left fielder's third of the year.
Light runs his record to 3-0 on the season. The right-hander allowed three runs on nine hits, while striking out five and walking one in 6 1/3 innings. Tim John gave up two hits in a scoreless 1 1/3 innings, before giving way to Chase Vaden (Fr., LHP, Lynch Station, Va.) who yielded two runs on two hits in the ninth. Bogaert, the first of six UNC Asheville hurlers on the day, took the loss to fall to 1-2. The right-hander yielded five runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Negron and Bussey paced Liberty's 15-hit attack with 3-for-5 afternoons. Teammates Nanry, Giammaresi and Hollinger also had two hits apiece in the contest. Vernon led the Bulldogs with three hits, while Henson, Williams and Robinson had two hits each.
Liberty steps out of conference on Wednesday afternoon as the Flames host the UMBC Retrievers at Worthington Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. UNC Asheville travels to Columbia, S.C. on Tuesday to square off with No. 2-ranked South Carolina.