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Lady Flames Set for Big South Tournament First Round Game Against Gardner-Webb, Thursday
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Big South Softball Championship Bracket
Liberty (10-44, 4-20 Big South) enters the 2014 Big South Softball Championship as the ninth seed. The Lady Flames will take on No. 8 seed Gardner-Webb (16-35, 6-17) on Thursday at 9 a.m. in a play-in game, with the winner advancing into the double-elimination round of the tournament and the losing team ending its season.
The winner of Thursday's game will meet top-seeded and host team Coastal Carolina (38-14, 20-4) on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. Gardner-Webb swept the Lady Flames in a regular-season series, April 11-12, winning by scores of 6-5, 13-10 and 5-3 in Lynchburg.
Liberty is 20-7 all-time against Gardner-Webb, including 2-0 in Big South Championship play. The Lady Flames downed the Runnin' Bulldogs twice in the semifinal round in 2011, on the way to their second Big South tournament title.
Lady Flames at a Glance
The Lady Flames have been playing their best softball of the season lately, going 3-2 over the last five games of the regular season. During that span, the team batted .345 while averaging 7.6 runs per contest. Liberty leads the conference with 90 stolen bases on the year, and is just three steals shy of the single-season program record, set in 1996.
How to Follow the Lady Flames
Fans can follow all of Liberty's conference tournament games through live stats, provided by Coastal Carolina. Each Lady Flames contest will also be broadcast on 90.9 FM The Light, with Kevin Keys calling the action. A live video stream will be available for all games, free of charge, through the Big South Network. Saturday's semifinals will appear on ESPN3.com. Sunday's championship final will be broadcast live nationally on ESPNU.
Liberty vs. Gardner-Webb (Liberty leads, 20-7)
Gardner-Webb (16-35, 6-17 Big South) went 2-3 in its last five games, including wins over Presbyterian College and Radford. The Runnin' Bulldogs are led by four-time first team All-Big South player Samantha Meenaghan, who bats .431 with four triples, 11 stolen bases and 24 RBIs. Taylar Pridgen hits .276, while Megan Champion has posted 22 RBIs and Kellie Beres (.276) has stolen 17 bases. Jessica Childers leads Gardner-Webb's pitching staff with 10 wins, a 3.41 ERA and 126 strikeouts.
Liberty holds a 20-7 record all-time against Gardner-Webb. The Lady Flames had won 11 straight games against the Runnin' Bulldogs before Gardner-Webb downed Liberty, 4-2, on April 12, 2013 in Lynchburg. Liberty defeated Gardner-Webb twice on May 13, 2011, to advance to the Big South final, which the Lady Flames won over Radford.
Liberty vs. Gardner-Webb - 2014 Recap
Gardner-Webb swept the 2014 regular-season series from the Lady Flames, winning three games in Lynchburg, April 11-12.
Liberty hit three home runs during game one, rallying to tie the contest at 5-5, before the Runnin' Bulldogs scored once in the seventh to win, 6-5. Marybeth Sciolino went 3-for-3, while Katie Zavodny hit her first career over-the-fence home run.
Gardner-Webb held off Liberty, 13-10, during game two. Zavodny went 3-for-5 with a stolen base, becoming the second player in Big South history with 100 or more steals.
A three-run homer by Samantha Meenaghan keyed Gardner-Webb's 5-3 win, April 12.
On the weekend, Sciolino batted 5-for-8 (.625), while Hanna Nichols hit 5-for-10. Kelby Allen hit a pair of home runs, while Blair Lawrence and Megan Robinson had two doubles apiece.
Quick Conference Report
Liberty batted .269 as a team during 24 Big South games, stealing 43 bases.
Katie Zavodny hit .358 with a team-high 13 steals and 15 runs scored during conference play. Marybeth Sciolino (.350) stole seven bases, while Megan Robinson (.307) led the team in doubles (8), homers (4) and slugging percentage (.573). Hanna Nichols hit .284 with three homers, while Kelby Allen (.273) had four homers, 15 RBIs and 15 runs scored against Big South opponents. Blair Lawrence (.254) stole eight bases.
Turning it On
The Lady Flames' offense has ignited in the last 10 games, during which Liberty hit .333 with 5.6 runs per game, 17 doubles, nine homers and 23 stolen bases.
Katie Han hit .435 with 11 RBIs, while Katie Zaovdny (.417) stole nine bases and scored eight runs. Jamie Crisp batted .409 with three homers and 10 RBIs, while Megan Robinson (.400) scored seven runs and Kelby Allen (.394) tallied nine runs. Marybeth Sciolino (.385), Holly Seiz (.333) and Hanna Nichols (.321) all batted .300 or better.
Annah Jo Brittingham is 3-2 with a 3.34 ERA and .216 opponents' batting average during that stretch.
And the Award Goes to . . .
Three Lady Flames were named to the 2014 Big South All-Conference Softball Team, in junior Megan Robinson (1st team - 2B), senior Katie Zavodny (2nd team - OF) and junior Hanna Nichols (Honorable Mention - 1B). It marks Liberty's most all-conference honorees since placing six players on the 2011 Big South All-Conference Softball Team. The Lady Flames have received at least one first team all-conference member in each of the last six seasons.
Robinson was voted to the Big South All-Academic Team for the second straight year. She is batting .303, while leading Liberty with nine doubles, eight homers, a .535 slugging percentage and nine multiple-RBI contests. She is second on the squad with 26 RBIs.
Zavodny earns her third straight all-conference award, becoming the sixth player in program history to be named a three-time All-Big South player. She is batting .352 with team highs of 37 runs, 63 hits, 31 stolen bases and 80 total bases.
Nichols receives her first all-league honor, as she ranks third on the team with a .304 batting average, six doubles, four home runs, 18 RBIs, a .464 slugging percentage and .378 on-base percentage.
Head of the Class
Junior second baseman Megan Robinson was voted to the Capital One Academic All-District III Team. She carries a 4.0 GPA as a youth ministries major. Robinson joins teammate Sammi Shivock, who was an academic all-district selection in 2013.
Crisp Named Big South Player of the Week
Jamie Crisp was named Big South Softball Player of the Week on April 28. She went 9-for-18 in six games, with two doubles, three home runs, nine RBIs and seven runs.
She recorded base hits in each of her first six at bats on the week, starting with a 2-for-2 game at Virginia, April 23.
Crisp went 3-for-3 with two homers, three runs and five RBIs on April 24 against ETSU. She is the first Lady Flame to post all of those numbers in the same game since Jessica Moore did so in a 9-4 win over Princeton, March 2, 2007 in Chapel Hill, N.C.
She closed out the week by going 1-for-3 with a homer and four RBIs at Presbyterian College, April 27.
Lady Flames Close Regular Season With Series Victory at PC
The Lady Flames went 2-1 at Presbyterian College to close out the regular season, bouncing back from an 8-5 game-one setback to win the final two games.
During game two at Presbyterian, Annah Jo Brittingham struck out a batter with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh, before Hanna Nichols hit a leadoff homer in the eighth, as Liberty won, 6-4. Katie Zavodny and Marybeth Sciolino both went 3-for-4 with three steals, as the Lady Flames tied a program record with eight stolen bases as a team.
The Lady Flames won their regular-season finale for the sixth time in the last seven years, defeating PC, 7-5, on April 27. Jamie Crisp homered and drove in four runs, while Kelby Allen, Katie Han, Marybeth Sciolino and Grace Nordan all had two hits apiece. Annah Jo Brittingham collectd the win, allowing no earned runs on two hits.
Double Plays Abound
The Lady Flames set a new program single-game record by turning three double plays on April 23 at Virginia, with twin killings in the second (1-4-3), third (1-6-3) and fourth (5-3) innings.
On April 24, Liberty turned a rare 7-6-4 double play during game one against ETSU, as Blair Lawrence robbed a home run, and then caught a runner at second.