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No. 3 Seed Flames Rally for 4-3 Win Over No. 4 Seed Keydets
Trailing 3-2 in the ninth inning, Liberty rallied for two runs for the win. Pinch hitter Cody Brown (R-So., 1B, Boca Raton, Fla.) led off the frame with a single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Negron. After Brown moved to third on a ground out, Young was intentionally walked to put runners at the corners with two outs. Pinch hitter Nate Thompson (R-Fr., Stonehill, N.C.) then tied the game with a single up the middle. After the next batter walked loading the bases, Patrick Gaillard (Sr., SS, Taylors, S.C.) ripped a single past a diving second baseman for a 4-3 Liberty win.
VMI capitalized on a Liberty error to take a 2-0 lead in the Keydet first. With a runner on and two outs, the Flames center fielder dropped a fly ball to shallow center by A.J. Yoder, keeping the inning alive and allowing VMI baserunners to reach second and third. Michael Roberts then cashed in both runners with a triple which found the left centerfield gap and rolled to the base of the wall.
Liberty answered with a run in the bottom of the first inning. Kenneth Negron (So., 2B, Kingwood, Texas) dropped a single into center field to lead off the frame and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Phil John (Sr., RF, Linwood, N.J.). After a balk advanced Negron to third, Garrett Young (Jr., CF, Fountain Valley, Calif.) lifted a run-scoring sacrifice fly to right, plating the Flames' second baseman.
With VMI up 2-1, the two teams exchanged runs in the second. Justin Hess opened the Keydet half of the inning with a walk and scored as the next batter Thane Smith doubled to give VMI a 3-1 edge. Liberty plated a run in the bottom of the inning on a solo home run off the bottom of the scoreboard in left field by Gaillard. The shortstop's first round tripper of the season cut the VMI edge to 3-2.
After the second inning, Liberty starter Dustin Umberger (So., RHP, Hummelstown, Pa.) held the Keydets in check, retiring the next 16 straight VMI hitters, before hitting Robert Crumpler with a pitch to start the top of the ninth.
Yet despite out-hitting the Keydets, 9-3, through the first eight innings, the Flames could not break through for the equalizer against Keydet starter Michael Bowman. Liberty did threaten in the fifth by loading the bases with two outs. However, Bowman was able to retire the next batter to preserve VMI's one-run cushion. The Flames also stranded a runner on second in the eighth.
Umberger, who went the distance for the first time this season, allowed three runs, one earned, on three hits to run his record to 5-4. The right-hander set down 19 of the last 20 hitters he faced. Bowman gave up two runs on nine hits in eight innings. VMI reliever Kevin Crum took the loss to fall to 3-4.
Gaillard and Errol Hollinger (So., C, Upland, Calif.) each had three hits apiece to pace the Flames. The Keydets had no player with more than one hit on the evening.
With the win, Liberty moves to 34-23 overall and will meet No. 2 seed Winthrop at 8 p.m. tomorrow night at the Winthrop Ballpark in game 6 of the Big South Championship.