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No. 30 Liberty Plates Two in Ninth for Walk-off Win
First baseman Alex Close hit a home run and singled with the bases-loaded in the ninth to give the No. 30 Liberty Flames a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the UNC Asheville Bulldogs, Sunday at Liberty Baseball Stadium.
Trailing 3-2 in the ninth, Liberty right fielder Will Shepherd reached on a throwing error by UNC Asheville third baseman Robert McIntosh to lead off the home half of the ninth. Second baseman Ryan Seiz then single through the right side of the infield, moving Shepherd to third.
After designated hitter Becker Sankey was hit by a pitch, Bulldog pitcher Corey Randall's attempted pickoff throw of Seiz at second base, went off the runner's helmet, allowing Shepherd to score, tying the contest at 3-3. With a five-man Asheville infield, Close followed by lining the first pitch past the third base bag, plating Seiz for the 4-3 walk-off win.
Close and Sankey also hit home runs in the contest for the Flames.
Liberty moves to 19-1 in Big South Conference play and 35-10 overall. The Flames have won 17-straight in conference action and have swept each three-game series from their last six Big South opponents. UNC Asheville falls to 4-16 in the conference and 12-32 overall.
Liberty took a 1-0 lead in the second. Sankey hit his second home run of the year to open the bottom half of the second. The designated hitter belted the first pitch he saw into the left field bullpen for the game's first run.
The Bulldogs benefited from a Flames' miscue to tie the contest in the fourth. McIntosh led off the inning with a single and moved to second when Seiz misplayed a ground ball by left fielder Tommy Houmard. Two batters later, first baseman Hunter Bryant walked to load the bases. With two outs, second baseman Kyle Towles was hit by a pitch, forcing in a run and knotting the game at 1-1.
In the fifth, Liberty went back in front on Close's sixth home run of the season. With one out, Close lined a 1-2 pitch into the left field bullpen to give the Flames a 2-1 lead.
Liberty's advantage was brief, as the Bulldogs plated two unearned runs in the top of the sixth for a 3-2 edge. With one out, Houmard was hit by a pitch and designated hitter Eli Miller singled. Two batters later, Towles drew a two-out walk to load the bases.
Shortstop Derek Smith followed with a ground ball, which Liberty shortstop Dalton Britt misplayed, allowing Houmard to cross with the first run of the inning. Catcher Sam Turner then beat out an infield single, scoring Miller to give Asheville a 3-2 lead it carried into the bottom of the ninth.
Liberty reliever Shawn Clowers picks up the win for the second-straight day. The left-hander, the third Flames pitcher in the contest, retired the side in order in the ninth.
Randall falls to 2-5 on the year. The right-hander gave up four runs on six hits over 8 1/3-plus innings. He struck out five batters and walked two.
Hits were even in the game at 6-6. Close was the only player in the game to collect more than one hit with two.
Liberty now takes a nine-day break for exams, before traveling to Charlottesville, Va., for a meeting with the Virginia Cavaliers, currently ranked No. 1, on May 7. First pitch at Davenport Stadium is scheduled for 6 p.m.