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No. 3 Liberty's Offense Comes Alive in 12-8 Victory over No. 6 UNC Asheville
With the victory, the Flames raise their overall record to 35-24 and advance to this evening's 8 p.m. contest where they will face the loser of today's 3 p.m. game featuring No. 1 Coastal Carolina and No. 2 Winthrop. The pair of victors in today's remaining games will square off tomorrow afternoon at 1 p.m. in the tournament's championship game with an automatic berth to the NCAA Regionals on the line.
Liberty jumped out to a 1-0 lead in its first at bat of the contest. Kenneth Negron (So., 2B, Kingwood, Texas) walked to lead off the Flames first inning. On a wild pitch, he moved to third and plated the first run of the game as the Bulldog catcher overthrew third, allowing him to score.
In the second inning, Liberty extended its advantage to 4-0. Cody Brown (R-So., 1B, Boca Raton, Fla.) opened the inning by dropping a single in front of the right fielder. After a sacrifice bunt moved Brown to second, P.K. Keller (Jr., LF, Clearwater, Fla.) singled and the Flames loaded the bases as David Giammaresi (R-Jr., 3B, Coral Springs, Fla.) was awarded first on catcher's inference. Nate Thompson (R-Fr., C, Stonehill, N.C.) followed by ripping a bases-clearing double into the left-center field gap.
UNC Asheville took its first advantage of the contest in the third inning, plating five runs. The first two batters of the inning walked and moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt. Kevin Mattison chased home the Bulldogs first run of the game with a RBI double. Justin Schumer followed with a single to chase home the second run of the frame. The third-straight UNC Asheville hit by Rob Vernon brought home another run and David Williams capped the outburst with a two-run double to left field for a 5-4 edge.
In the bottom of the frame, Liberty answered back with three runs to reclaim the lead for good. Garrett Young (Jr., CF, Fountain Valley, Calif.) singled to begin the Flames half of the third and moved to second on a wild pitch. Two batters later, Patrick Gaillard (Sr., SS, Taylors, S.C.) singled to left to tie the contest at 5-5. Keller then blasted a two-run home run off the video scoreboard in left field, giving Liberty the lead back at 7-5. The round tripper was the left fielder's third of the season.
The two squads exchanged runs in the fifth. Schumer hit his first home run of the season, a solo shot over the right field fence, to cut the Liberty edge to one run, 7-6, in the top of the inning. The Flames got the back the run in the bottom of the frame as Keller delivered a run with a two-out single.
Liberty added additional runs over the next three innings with single runs in the sixth and eight and two more in the seventh. Young scored Negron, who singled with one out, with a sacrifice fly up the Flames advantage to 9-6 in the sixth. In the seventh, a two-out single by Giammaresi plated two more runs for an 11-6 lead. A Young double chased home Phil John (Sr., RF, Linwood, N.J.) in the eighth.
In the ninth inning, UNC Asheville added two runs on a home run by Vernon for the final margin
Starter Ryan Page (Jr., RHP, Cranberry Twp., Pa.) allowed six runs on 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings to run his record to 3-3 on the year. Tyler Light (So., RHP, San Bernardino, Calif.) picked up a save, yielding two runs on five hits over 3 1/3 innings of relief. UNC Asheville starter Michael Bogaert took the loss to fall to 2-8.
The two teams combined for 30 hits in the contest. Keller was 3-for-4 with three RBI and Young was 3-for-4 with two RBI to lead the Flames. Schumer and Vernon had each had three hits for the Bulldogs.