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Three-Run Ninth Leads Liberty Past Gardner-Webb, 4-1
The No. 30 Liberty Flames broke a 1-1 tie with three runs in the ninth inning, en route to a 4-1 win over the Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs, Friday afternoon at John Henry Moss Stadium.
The Flames took advantage of two Runnin' Bulldogs' errors to go in front for good in top of the ninth. With the score tie at 1-1, second baseman Ryan Seiz led off the inning with a sharp single to left field. Tray Roberts, who entered in the bottom of the eighth as a defensive replacement, followed by laying down a perfect sacrifice bunt, which Gardner-Webb catcher Brantley Smith threw away at first base, sending Seiz scrambling for third. A throw in an attempt to throw out Seiz by Bulldog right fielder sailed high, allowing Roberts to reach second and Seiz to score for a 2-1 Liberty lead.
After another perfect bunt by the next batter, shortstop Dalton Britt, put Liberty runners on the corners, first baseman Alex Close lifted a sacrifice fly to plate Roberts for a two-run edge. Catcher Danny Grauer followed with a RBI single to left field to give the Flames what proved to be the winning margin of 4-1.
Liberty moves to 16-1 in Big South play and 32-9 overall. The win extends the Flames' Big South Conference winning streak to 14 consecutive games. Gardner-Webb drops to 7-10 in conference action and 16-23 overall.
Gardner-Webb plated the game's first run in the home half of the contest's opening inning. Right fielder J.J. Nazzaro led off the inning with a single back through the middle of the diamond and stole second. After moving to third base on a ground out, Nazzaro scored on a ground out by first baseman Scott Coleman for a 1-0 edge.
Liberty starter pitcher Blake Fulghum worked around a leadoff triple in the bottom of the fifth. Third baseman Henry Rundio opened the inning with a triple into the right field corner. But, Fulghum was able to get the next Gardner-Webb batter to foul out, before spoiling a squeeze bunt attempt by center fielder Alex Newman, catching Rundio in a rundown for the second out of the inning. The left-hander then struck out Newman to keep the Flames within one run at 1-0.
After being held off the scoreboard through six innings by Bulldogs' starting pitcher Andrew Barnett, Liberty broke through with a run in the top of the seventh to tie the contest. With one out, Britt dropped a double into the left field. Two batters later, Grauer ripped a two-out single into left field, knotting the game at 1-1.
In the bottom of the inning, Gardner-Webb began the frame with a double by designated hitter Matt Simmons. But he was stranded when Liberty center fielder Ashton Perritt took away a hit off the bat of Runnin' Bulldogs' center fielder Alex Newman with a diving catch in the right-center field gap to end the inning.
Fulghum and Barnett locked in a pitchers' duel through the first six innings, but neither pitcher figuring in the decision. Fulghum allowed one run on six hits over 6 1/3 innings, striking out five batters.
Shawn Clowers pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Fulghum, before Perritt took over in the eighth. Perritt pitched the final 1 1/3 innings to even his record at 1-1 on the year.
Reliever Mitch Warner falls to 1-3 on the year for Gardner-Webb. He allowed three runs on three hits over two innings of relief.
Liberty outhit Gardner-Webb, 8-6, in the contest. Grauer collected three hits and drove in two runs for the Flames. It is Grauer's second three-hit game of the season.
Liberty and Gardner-Webb will complete their three-game Big South series tomorrow afternoon at Moss Stadium. Game time is scheduled for 2 p.m.