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Phil John Keys Flames' Victory as Liberty Holds Off High Point, 7-5

March 23, 2007
|  High Point, N.C.
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Phil John had three hits and drove in four runs in the Flames' Big South victory over High Point on Friday.

Phil John had three hits and drove in four runs in the Flames' Big South victory over High Point on Friday.

Phil John was 3-for-5 with four RBI including a bases loaded double as the Liberty Flames held off a ninth-inning rally by the High Point Panthers for a 7-5 victory, Friday afternoon in a Big South game at Willard Stadium.

With their fourth win in five games, the Flames improve to 3-1 in the Big South and 16-8 overall, while High Point, playing in its first conference contest, drops to 0-1 in the Big South and 11-14 overall.

Liberty jumped out to a lead in the second inning.  Derek Bennion (Sr., CF, Snohomish, Wash. ) led off the frame with a sharply hit double into the left field corner.  After moving to third base on a sacrifice bunt by David Giammaresi (R-Jr., 3B, Coral Springs, Fla.), Bennion scored the first run of the game on a double play grounder, staking the Flames to a 1-0 advantage.

Liberty extended its edge in its next at bat. Aaron Phillips (Jr., SS, Claremore, Okla.) opened the third inning with a walk and advanced to third on a double by Kenneth Negron (So., LF, Kingswood, Texas ). John (Sr., RF, Linwood, N.J. ) followed with a RBI single up the middle to score Phillips. After the Flames recorded the second out of the inning on a strikeout, John got caught in a rundown on a steal attempt. The right fielder scampered safely back to first base, while Negron, the runner on third base, scored for a 3-0 Liberty lead.

For the third-consecutive frame, the Flames put runs on the scoreboard in the fourth. Giammaresi reached on a bunt single and Errol Hollinger (So., C, Upland, Calif.) walked to open the inning for Liberty . After an infield pop for the first out of the frame, Negron walked to load the bases.  John then ripped a double down the right field line, his third hit of the game, to clear the bases and up the Flames' advantage to 6-0.

High Point broke through in the fifth inning for their lone run off Solbach, scoring a two-out tally. Robby Kunzdale singled to keep the frame alive for the Panthers and moved to second on a passed ball. Jeff Cowan then singled to right to plate Kunzdale to make it, 6-1 Liberty .

In the eighth inning, the Flames added an insurance run to their advantage. Giammaresi and Hollinger began the stanza with back-to-back singles.  The two runners then advanced into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by Tommy Bussey (So., 2B, Boynton Beach, Fla. ). After the next batter popped out, Giammaresi came home with Liberty 's seventh run on the afternoon on a wild pitch.

Trailing 7-1, High Point rallied in the bottom of the ninth. The Panthers opened the inning with a two-run home run by J. Williams to cut the lead to 7-3. It was the High Point left fielder's fourth of the season. The Panthers continued to chip away at the Flames' margin in the inning as Cowan singled home two more runs to close the gap to 7-5. However, Liberty reliever Tim John (Sr., RHP, Linwood, N.J. ) retired the next two batters to complete the Flames' victory.

Liberty starter Solbach won his fifth-straight start to run his season's mark to 5-1. The right-hander allowed one unearned run on five hits over six innings, striking out three and walking three.  Andrew Wilson (So., RHP, Cary, N.C. ) followed with two innings of work and gave up two runs on three hits.  After Wilson faced two batters in the ninth, John replaced the right-hander and finished out the game, allowing two runs on three hits in an inning's work. 

Besides Phil John, Giammaresi was 3-for-3 and scored two runs for the Flames, while Negron continued to spark Liberty from the lead off position with two hits, a walk and two runs scored in the game. Cowan had three hits for the High Point , and teammates Kuzdale and Bill Manion had two hits apiece.

Liberty and High Point will meet again tomorrow in the middle game of the three-game Big South series.  Game time at High Point 's Willard Stadium is set for 1 p.m.