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Flames Plate Four in Seventh for 10-9 Victory over Keydets in Regular-Season Finale
With the win, the Flames finish conference play with a 14-7 mark and the regular season with 33-23 overall. Liberty's Big South record gives it the third seed in the upcoming conference tournament. The Keydets drop to 10-11 in the Big South and 31-19 overall. VMI will be the conference's fourth seed in the pending championship.
Liberty got on the scoreboard in the opening inning. Kenneth Negron (So., 2B, Kingwood, Texas) dropped a single into left field to lead off the game and advance to third on a single by Phil John (Sr., RF, Linwood, N.J.). Negron then scored on a ground out by Garrett Young (Sr., CF, Fountain Valley, Calif.) to put the Flames on top, 1-0.
VMI answered in the bottom of the frame. Chad Rice walked to begin the Keydet first inning and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. After a wild pitch, Rice tied the contest at 1-1 on a single by Robert Crumpler.
In the third inning, Liberty would strike quickly for two runs using the long ball. With two out, Phil John ripped a triple off the middle of the right-center field fence. Young followed by lining a two-run home run over the left field wall for a 3-1 advantage. The blast was the Flames center fielder's eighth of the season.
VMI answered back with a run in the bottom of the inning without a hit. Eddie Van Es walked to open the Keydet third. He moved to second and third on two wild pitches. The VMI right fielder then scored on a passed ball.
Liberty extended its edge in the fourth as the first three hitters of the frame reached. P.K. Keller (Jr., LF, Clearwater, Fla.) started the inning with a single up the middle and moved to third on a double by Patrick Gaillard (Sr., SS, Taylors, S.C.). David Giammaresi (R-Jr., 3B, Coral Springs, Fla.) made it three-straight hits with a single to plate Keller and give the Flames a 4-2 advantage. Nate Thompson (R-Fr., C, Stonehill, N.C.) followed with a sacrifice fly to score Gaillard to put Liberty ahead, 5-2.
For the second-straight frame, VMI came back in the bottom of the inning for four two-out runs to take its first advantage in the contest. Justin Hess led off with a single and moved to second on a ground out. Three batters later, a two-out single by Van Es plated Hess, making it, 5-3 Flames. Crumpler continued the frame with a single to load the bases. A.J. Yoder followed with a base clearing triple just inside the right field foul line for a 6-5 Keydet edge.
In the sixth, VMI upped its advantage. After loading the bases with two outs, Jacoby Fields singled to chase home two runners for an 8-5 advantage.
Liberty tied the game in the top of the seventh. With two outs and the bases loaded, the Flames would begin their scoring outburst when Thompson was hit by a pitch to force in the first run of the frame. The next batter, Shawn Teufel, walked to force in another run to cut the deficit to one, 8-7. Negron then tied the game at 8-8 with an infield single. Liberty took back the lead, as Phil John's grounder was misplayed by the shortstop, allowing the go-ahead run to score and all runners to reach safely.
In the eighth, the Flames added a run for a 10-8 lead. Gaillard tripled into the right field corner and scored on a single by Giammaresi.
VMI closed the gap to 10-9 with a run in the eighth against reliever Tim John (Sr., RHP, Linwood, N.J.) but he retired the Keydets in order in the ninth to close out the victory.
Grady Inhat (Fr., LHP, Simi Valley, Calif.), the fourth of five Liberty pitchers, picks up his first collegiate win, giving up a hit in 2/3 of an inning. The freshman runs his record to 1-0 on the year. Tim John earns his fifth save of the year. The right-hander allowed one run on two hits over 2 2/3 innings. Chris Duty took the loss to fall to 5-3. The third of five VMI pitchers gave up four runs on three hits in two innings of work.
Young went 3-for-5 with the home run and three RBI to pace Liberty. The centerfielder was one of six Flames with two or more hits in the contests. A.J. Yoder was 4-for-4 with three RBI for the Keydets.
Liberty, the third seed, will square off with VMI, the fourth seed, Wednesday night in the third game of the day at the 2007 Big South Championship in Rock Hill, S.C. Game time at the Winthrop Ballpark is scheduled for 8 p.m.