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Flames Collect 30th Win with Ninth-Inning Rally over Eagles
With the victory, Liberty improves to 11-6 in the Big South Conference and 30-22 overall. The Flames are currently third in the conference standings. Winthrop drops to 14-3 in the conference and 30-21 overall. Entering play today, the Eagles were atop the Big South standings.
The dramatic win gives Liberty its 30th win of the season. In the 33-year history of the program, the Flames have now reached the milestone 30-victory mark 13 times, with nine having come at the Division I level. Also, it is only the second time in school history, Liberty has recorded 30 or more wins in three consecutive seasons. Besides the past three seasons under head coach Matt Royer, the 2000, 2001 and 2002 squads posted three straight 30-win years.
In addition, it is the fourth straight victory by the Flames over the Eagles. Liberty won two games against Winthrop in last year's Big South Championship, before taking the first two games of their current three-game series. The Flames have only done so one other time in the all-time series between the two, by winning five straight contests over the Eagles during the 2001 and 2002 seasons.
Trailing 5-4, in the bottom of the ninth with one out, Patrick Gaillard (Sr., SS, Taylors, S.C.) singled to center field to begin the decisive Liberty rally. Errol Hollinger (So., C, Upland, Calif.) and David Giammaresi (R-Jr., 3B, Coral Springs, Fla.) then drew back-to-back walks to load the bases. After a pitching change, pinch hitter Cody Brown (R-So., 1B, Boca Raton, Fla.) followed by lofting a fly ball to center. Gaillard, the runner at third, tagged and headed for the plate. The Liberty shortstop was actually beat by center fielder Tommy Lentz's throw, but Gaillard's slide jarred the ball loose, tying the game, 5-5. Kenneth Negron (So., 2B, Kingswood, Texas) then hit a chopper to third, which was misplayed by the Winthrop third baseman and hopped down the left field line, allowing Hollinger to score from second and giving Liberty a 6-5 win.
After both teams went down in order in the first inning, the Eagles struck for the first run of the day in the second. Billy Froehlich doubled to right field with one out and two batters later, came around to plate the first run of the day on a two-out single by Eddie Tisdale for a 1-0 advantage.
Winthrop extended its lead to 3-0 by taking advantage of errors in the fourth and fifth frames for single runs in each. In the fourth, Tisdale reached on a fielder's choice, moved to second on a throwing error on a pickoff attempt and advanced to third on a wild pitch, all with two out. He then scored on another wild pitch.
In the fifth, Rand Baughman opened the inning by reaching on a throwing error by the shortstop and advanced to second when the errant throw went into the visitors' dugout. After a ground out, Phil Carey looped a double inside the line on the first base side to cash in Baughman.
Eagle starter Brett Moore held Liberty in check, as the freshman right-hander was perfect through the first six innings. However, in the seventh, the Flames broke up the perfect game and got on the scoreboard. Negron led off the inning with a sharply hit single to right, marking the first hit of the afternoon for Liberty. The Flames' second baseman advanced to second on a long foul out to right field by the next batter, P.K. Keller (Jr., LF, Clearwater, Fla). Garrett Young (Jr., CF, Fountain Valley, Calif.) then ripped a liner up the middle to bring home Negron and cut the Eagles' lead to 3-1.
Winthrop answered back with a run in the top of the eighth to regain its three-run advantage. Froelich drew a one-out walk and moved to third on a double by Mike Honce. After an intentional walk loaded the bases, John Murrian's grounder to shortstop scored Froelich for a 4-1 edge.
Liberty erased the Winthrop advantage in the eighth against reliever Ryan Mullins. Gaillard and Hollinger opened the frame with back-to-back singles. The next batter, Giammaresi, made it three straight hits by blasting a three-run home run, his second longball in two days, over the left field wall to tie the game at 4-4.
In the top of the ninth, the Eagles took a 5-4 edge without a hit. Chris Carrara was hit by a pitch to begin the inning and moved to second on a ground out. He then advanced to third on a wild pitch, the third by a Liberty pitcher in the game, and scored on a squeeze bunt by Lentz.
Reliever Tyler Light (So., RHP, San Bernardino, Calif.) runs his record to 5-4 on the season, after allowing two runs on two hits in four innings of relief of starter Michael Solbach (R-Jr., RHP, Woodbridge, Va.). Solbach gave up three runs, only one of them earned, on six hits in five innings.
Eagle reliever Ryan Schwartz takes the loss to drop to 2-3 on the year. The third of four Winthrop hurlers in the game, he allowed two runs, one earned in 1 1/3 innings. Starter Moore, who faced the minimum number of Flames through six innings, gave up one run on two hits in 6 2/3 frames in only his second start of the year.
Both teams were held in check by the pitchers for most of the day as Winthrop out-hit Liberty, 8-7. Gaillard was the only Flame with two hits in the contest, while three Eagles, Carey, Froelich and Tisdale had two hits apiece for the Eagles.
Winthrop and Liberty will conclude their Big South three-game series tomorrow afternoon at Worthington Stadium. The contest will be the final home game of the 2007 season for the Flames. Before the game, the six players on the Liberty roster playing in their final home contest for the Flames will be honored. Game time is set for 2 p.m.