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Stokes and Umberger Shut Out VMI, 4-0
The Flames move to 13-6 in the Big South Conference and 32-22 overall. The win clinches at least the third seed for Liberty in next week's Big South Championship. The Keydets drop to 9-10 in the conference and 33-18 overall.
After a scoreless first seven innings, Liberty broke through in the eighth to take a 4-0 lead with the help of two Keydet miscues. Garrett Young (Jr., CF, Fountain Valley, Calif.) led off the inning with a single to left field. Tim Nanry (Sr., DH, Rochester, N.Y.), then ripped a grounder to third, which the fielder misplayed for a two-base error, putting Flames at second and third. Young plated the first run of the game on a wild pitch to the ensuing batter for a 1-0 Liberty lead.
After Phil John (Sr., RF, Linwood, N.J.) walked, shortstop Patrick Gaillard (Sr., SS, Taylors, S.C.) dropped down a bunt for an infield single to score Nanry. On the bunt, the VMI pitcher overthrew second on an attempt to get John and allowed him to move to third. The Flames cashed him in on a ground out by Errol Hollinger (So., C, Upland, Calif.) to make it 3-0. Liberty later added an additional run in the inning as three consecutive batters walked, forcing in a run for a 4-0 lead.
Umberger (So., RHP, Hummelstown, Pa.) came on in the bottom of the eighth for Stokes (Jr., RHP, Locust Grove, Okla.) and held VMI scoreless over the final two frames for Liberty's first shutout of the season.
The shutout is the first by the Flames' mound staff since April 18, 2006, when Ryan Page, Billy Daniels and Andrew Wilson blanked Longwood, 8-0, at Worthington Stadium. Stokes, who improved to 8-5 with the triumph, scattered four hits and struck out seven, while walking four over seven innings. Umberger allowed two hits and struck out four in two innings of relief.
VMI threatened in the second inning. With one out, the Keydets put together back-to-back singles and a walk to load the bases. However, Liberty starter Stokes got the next batter to hit a high chopper in front of the plate. Hollinger corralled the ball and tagged out the runner sliding past trying to score for the second out of the frame. The threat ended as the next batter bounced out to first unassisted.
In the top of the fourth, Liberty loaded the bases with one out, but VMI starter Michael Bowman, who fell to 6-3 on the year with the loss, retired the next two batters to keep the contest scoreless.
The Keydets filled the sacks for the second time in the game in the bottom of the fifth, only to be held off the scoreboard again. With two outs, Stokes walked a batter to load the bases, but got the next VMI hitter to fly out.
In the sixth, the Flames saw an attempt to plate the first run fall to the wayside. Young led off the frame with a single. After an out, the Flames center fielder moved to second on a wild pitch and advanced to third base on a throwing error by the catcher. However, Bowman stranded the runner by retiring the next
For the night, Liberty out-hit VMI, 9-6. With both starters giving outstanding efforts, the teams combined to strand 21 base runners in the game, with the Flames leaving 11 men on base and the Keydets leaving 10.
Young led the Liberty attack with a 3-for-5 night. Jacoby Fields and Justin Hess had two hits apiece for VMI.
The Flames and Keydets will meet again tomorrow night in the middle game of the three-game Big South series at Gray-Minor Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.