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No. 21 Liberty Edged by Radford in Regular Season Finale
The Radford Highlanders staked themselves to an early lead and then held off a late-inning rally by the No. 21 Liberty Flames, en route to a 4-2 victory in the final regular season game of 2014, Saturday at the RU Baseball Stadium.
Host Radford built a 3-0 lead over the first three innings, only to have to hold off an eighth-inning rally by the Flames. With two outs, Liberty moved the tying and go-ahead runs into scoring position at second and third bases. But Highlanders reliever Ryan Messinger was able to retire the next batter to keep Radford in front.
Liberty falls to 23-3 in Big South play and 39-14 overall. The Flames close the regular season with a program-record 23 Big South wins. Radford moves to 17-10 in conference action and 32-21 overall. The Highlanders' 32 wins are a school record.
Radford struck for the game's first run in the home half of the first inning. With one out and no one aboard, catcher Josh Reavis lifted his third home run of the year over the right field wall for a 1-0 edge.
The Highlanders extended their advantage in the third. After shortstop Chris Coia and second baseman Josh Gardiner both drew one-out walks, Reavis singled to load the bases. Designated hitter Patrick Marshall then walked to force in the first run of the inning. First baseman Alexander Lee followed with a run-producing ground out to give Radford a 3-0 lead.
Liberty plated its first run of the contest in the top of the fifth. Center fielder Ashton Perritt led off the inning by lining his second home run of the year over the right-center field wall, cutting Radford's advantage to 3-1.
The Flames trimmed their deficit to one in the sixth. Pinch hitter Andrew Yacyk doubled into the left-center field gap to open the inning. After moving to third base on a sacrifice bunt by shortstop Dalton Britt, Yacyk scored on a wild pitch, slicing the Highlanders' edge to 3-2.
Liberty tried to rally in the eighth. With one out, second baseman Ryan Seiz singled. Two batters later, Britt lined a two-out single into center field, moving Seiz, the tying run, to third base. Britt then advanced to second base on a wild pitch. However, Messinger was able to get Liberty first baseman Alex Close to fly out to end the threat.
Radford added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning. With two out and runners on first and second, Liberty catcher Danny Grauer overthrew second base in an attempt to throw out the trail runner. The front runner, Tyler Costello, then scored as the throw by center fielder Trey Roberts, a defensive replacement, sailed high for what proved to be the final score of 4-2.
Liberty starting pitcher Parker Bean drops to 7-2 on the year. The right-hander gave up three runs on three hits over 3 1/3 innings. The first of four Flames to pitch in the game, he struck out four and walk four batters.
Radford reliever Kyle Palmer moves to 1-0 on the year. The second of five Highlanders to pitch in the contest, he gave up two runs on two hits over two innings of work. Palmer struck out one and did not walk a batter.
Messinger recorded his fifth save of the season with 1 1/3 innings of relief. He struck out one.
Liberty outhit Radford, 7-4. Left fielder Nick Lacik and Perritt each had two hits for the Flames. Reavis had two hits for the Highlanders.
With the regular season over, Liberty next heads to the 2014 Big South Baseball Championship in Rock Hill, S.C. The defending Big South champion Flames will be the No. 1 seed for the championship which begins on Tuesday at the Winthrop Ballpark. Liberty's opponent and game time will be announced at the conclusion of conference play later this evening.