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Three-Run Homer in Fourth Give Dukes Opening-Game Victory Over Lady Flames
The loss drops Liberty's season-to-date record to 21-14 and snaps Liberty's six-game winning streak, its longest winning streak of the year.
Liberty broke a scoreless tie in the top of the third inning as Jessica Moore tripled to right field and was able to score as the attempted rally to the bag got by George who was backing up the play, allowing Moore to scamper in and give the Lady Flames a 1-0 lead.
James Madison quickly answered back in the bottom half of the frame as Amber Kirk singled to left field, followed by Courtney Simons two-run homer to left field two batters later, giving the Dukes a 2-1 lead.
Liberty tied the game during its next at bat as J'nae Jefferson doubled to the gap in left center field, followed by Dawn Jeffs' RBI base hit to left field, driving in Jefferson and tying the game at 2-2.
However, James Madison ended the saw-saw battle as three-consecutive hits to start the bottom of the fourth gave the Dukes a three-run lead.
Julia Dominguez opened the frame with a sharply-hit double down the left field line, followed by Sally Smith's single straight back up the middle, giving James Madison runners at the corners. But it didn't matter where the runners were as Katie George tagged a 1-2 pitch over the scoreboard in left field, putting the Dukes up three runs, 5-2.
James Madison added an insurance run in the fifth inning as Kaitlyn Wernsing reached base on an infield single. After advancing two bases on back-to-back stolen bases, Wernsing was able to cross the plate on a base hit up the middle by Dominguez, pushing James Madison's lead to four runs, 6-2.
And the Dukes were happy they gave themselves the cushion as Liberty mounted a serious threat during its final at bat with the offensive outburst coming with two outs. Shannon McKain started the rally with her fourth home run of the year, a solo shot to right center field.
Moore kept things going with a single to right field, followed by Ashley Williams' RBI double off the fence in center field, scoring Moore. However, Meredith Felts came in to relieve starter Branden Moss to get the final out and secure her first save of the year.
Moss upped her record to 4-5 on the year as the hurler allowed four runs on 10 hits in 6 2/3 innings of work, walking one and striking out five.
Sarah Ellis suffered the loss for Liberty as the sophomore allowed four runs on seven hits during the first three-plus innings of work. Dana Wheeler allowed two runs on four hits during two innings of work, before Sarah Swor finished off the final two innings by allowing one hit and fanning two batters.
The second strikeout enabled the senior to climb into a tie atop Liberty's all-time career strikeouts chart as Swor is now tied with Ali Thompson (2000-02) as both pitchers have 446 career strikeouts.
Liberty first four batters in the line-up recorded eight of the team's 10 hits with Moore leading the way by going 3-for-4 with two runs scored. Following closely behind were McKain and Williams, who both were 2-for-4 during the game.