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Liberty Drops Season Opener at UNF, 11-4
Despite seeing visiting Liberty jump out to a 4-1 lead, the North Florida Ospreys used a six-run third inning to down the Flames, 11-4, Friday afternoon at Harmon Stadium in the first game of the UNF Best Bet Tournament.
Designated hitter Danny Grauer hit a home run and scored twice for Liberty. The Flames got off to a fast start in the contest, as each of Liberty's first six hitters in its batting order had a hit during the first three innings. But after that, the UNF pitching staff handcuffed Liberty the rest of the way in its victory.
The 2014 season opener for both teams, Liberty falls to 0-1 on the year, while North Florida moves to 1-0.
Liberty struck for runs in its opening at bat of 2014. Center fielder Ashton Perritt singled sharply past the shortstop and then stole second base. After Perritt moved to third on a groundout by left fielder Nick Lacik, Grauer ripped a 1-0 pitch over the left field wall for his first home run of the year and 2-0 Flames' advantage.
North Florida cut into the Liberty lead with a solo home run in the bottom of the second. After Lacik robbed Osprey center fielder Alex Bacon of extra bases with a diving catch of a liner into the left field gap to open the inning, freshman second baseman Patrick Ervin connected for his first collegiate hit, a home run, to trim the Flames' edge in half to 2-1.
Liberty stretched its advantage with two runs in the top of the third, only to see UNF plate six runs in the bottom of the inning to take the lead.
In the top of the third, Lacik lined a double into the right-center field gap, Grauer walked and first baseman Ryan Seiz was hit by a pitch to load the bases to open the inning. Catcher Alex Close followed with an infield single to plate Lacik for the first run of the frame. The next batter, shortstop Dalton Britt, then lifted a sacrifice fly to left field to give the Flames a three-run advantage at 4-1.
However, UNF benefited from three Liberty errors in the bottom of the frame to go in front in the contest. With one out, shortstop Kyle Brooks walked and right fielder Drew Weeks singled. Left fielder Donnie Dewees followed with a run-scoring double to begin the uprising. Weeks then came home on a wild pitch and Dewees scored on a throwing error by Flames catcher Close to knot the game at 4-4.
After back-to-back singles by third baseman Trent Higginbothem and first baseman Nick Karmeris, an error by Liberty third baseman Dalton Britt on a Bacon grounder, allowed Higginbothem to score, putting the Ospreys in front, 5-4. Ervin followed with a squeeze bunt to plate Karmeris, and later, Bacon scored on a wild pitch for a 7-4 UNF advantage.
UNF broke the game open with four runs in the bottom of the eighth. A two-out, bases-clearing triple by Dewees was the big hit in the inning.
Liberty starting pitcher Trey Lambert falls to 0-1. The senior allowed seven runs, four earned, on seven hits over the first five innings. He struck out three batters and walked one.
UNF relief pitcher Dan VanSickle moves to 1-0. The second pitcher on the afternoon for the Ospreys, VanSickle held the Flames in check after entering in the fifth for starter Tyler Moore. The right-hander did not allow a run and yielded one hit over four innings of relief. He struck out one and walked one.
Liberty managed seven hits in the contest. No Flame had more than one. Meanwhile, UNF had 13 hits in the game, and Higginbothem led the Ospreys with three hits.
Liberty committed four errors on the afternoon, while North Florida had two miscues.
The Flames will face the South Florida Bulls tomorrow afternoon at Harmon Stadium in the second game of the UNF Best Bet Tournament. First pitch is scheduled for noon.